July 23, 2013
Thanks for the post, Aron. I wonder if there's a connection between the perceived (and actual) meaningless of many jobs with the desire to "get away from it all." In other words, the more we can understand and articulate how our work contributes to the common good of society, the less we need vacation as "retreat." And the less our work contributes real goods to society, the more we need to "get away from" this kind of life on a regular basis.
Sure, I think you are right, Branson, but no matter how fulfilling our work is in even the most spiritual of senses there will still be a need for Sabbath rest. What might a connection between Sabbath and vacation look like?
Great job on the faith aspects of vacation as taking a break, Aron. You made me think of Micah 4:4 and Zechariah 3:10 where God promises rest for his people as each person gets to sit under their own vine and fig tree. If kicking back in the shade isn't a good way to rest, I don't know what is.
On the cultural tension between freedom-from and freedom-for, it's amazing how far we've come in 237 years. The Declaration of Independence says we are endowed with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is a statement of freedom for, i.e., we have freedom to possess and pursue those things. So apparently we thought freedom-for was a good thing then, but now society rejects that construct and sees freedoms as better held when they free us from something.
I'll take freedom-for. Jesus set the captives free so they can live with him. And that means Jesus is for us. That sounds like a good freedom-for to me.
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Thanks, Aron, for this - as someone who struggles with being obsessed with work (and with alternate desires to escape that work when it gets to be too much), I think this is very helpful. If Sabbath and vacation are linked - which, of course, they are - then there comes the other problem of Sabbaths themselves being rushed and hurried. How many Sabbaths have I spent anxiously watching time go by, knowing that I'll just have to jump right back into the rush of work in a few hours? There's a similar danger there as well.
I second Branson's comment about the meaninglessness of some jobs - I have seen so many people who, feeling constrained and resentful about their work because of its lack of meaning (whether it's that they themselves can't see purpose in what they do, or the demands and environment of the job are dehumanizing), see their time off as completely off limits to others, separate and untouchable. I was guilty of this as a college student. I hope that we're able to approach leisure in a variety of ways; God help us to live a life that rests in the freedom God gives us, freedom for his kingdom.
Bonhoeffer consistently emphasized freedom in the positive sense, as "freedom for," to the extent that he waxed eloquently about God's (and particularly Christ's) promeity. In typically Lutheran fashion, perhaps, but with his own characteristic flavor, he likewise emphasized the obligations of persons in community, to the extent that our attempts to withdraw from the claims of others was seen as an expression of our inherent sinful "cor curvatus in se." Thus, he writes, "We must allow ourselves to be interrupted by God, who will thwart our plans and frustrate our ways time and again, even daily, by sending people across our path with their demands and requests. We can, then, pass them by, preoccupied with our more important daily tasks, just as the priest â€“ perhaps reading the Bible â€“ passes by the man who had fallen among robbers."
Ah! Rest and sabbath! My soap box topic!
The distinction between positive and negative freedom is such a helpful one. We do great damage to the concept of sabbath and rest if our only association with rest it is that it is a cessation-of-activity. Rest is more than simply the absence of work, just as peace means more than the absence of conflict - although cessation of work/conflict are indubitably aspects of it. Sabbath rest is FOR (hooray for positive freedom!) reflection, refreshment and recreation. Re-creation. Being made 'new', finding joy anew, remembering what's important anew. I love Allison's insight about the danger of rushing through vacations. However we do vacations, I want to feel refreshed and renewed after the designated annual time of familial recreation :-)
Great post, great comments.
As a chaplain who has served quite a few of our National Parks, this question really caught my attention today. When we hook up our RV for 2 to 3 weeks, we are "unhooked" from technology outside of the cell phone and usually not of a signal for a laptop. I usually have topics ready but I always find that during our times of quiet hikes, campfire conversations, fishing--and the people that God has cross our paths, change my thoughts and form my message. It happens every time but it happens differently--it isn't 'work!' For me--and everyone has a different way to approach Sabbath time/rest, being in God's creation settles me, fills me with peace, and right when I need it, gives me a "sermon." At other times, when I'm doing a pulpit supply I work like mad...so I know that I need to put that Sabbath rest into my days as I do into my vacations. You may call it work to teach (and often lead worship) at our National Parks (and some State parks) but it doesn't seem like it. And I am convinced that my time spent in quiet contemplation on a walk, or sitting out by the fire, watching animals, taking pictures--it puts my soul at rest, sets my mind on the joy and amazement of creation and everything just flows from that. It never ceases to amaze me and I come home from vacation truly rested and ready for my "other job!"
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