In part one of “How to have Great Day Off” we talked about how God designed our bodies to rest. “Goal Oriented” activities, whether fun or not, cause your body to release stress-hormones. So, even though your stress may not be work-related, it still has all the same results: low immune system, lower patience, and all around fatigue. And even worse, it’s possible to destroy your body’s natural ability to relax, without the aid of mood-altering addictions. So although we might not see home-mantainence or grocery shopping as “work,” your body certainly can’t tell the difference. If we want to truly Sabbath, we’ve got to get a smarter approach to having day’s off.
That’s partly why “Stay-cations” and cabins can be a really dysfunctional approach to rest. In my experience, the false pretense of rest quickly becomes shattered by home-improvements, honey-do-lists, and maintenance issues. And certainly, you can take any “vacation” and turn it into stress. For example, I once took my family to Walt-Disney’s E.P.C.O.T. theme park. By the end of the day, I realized that EPCOT stands for Every Parent Comes Out Tired. When I finally came home, I realized that I needed a vacation from my vacation. So, allow me to point out a better way to live. Here are three important ingredients for true relaxation: Extended Distraction, Atmosphere & Sabbath Preparation.
(A). Extended Distraction: At one time, I took a lot of half-days-off. But they never satisfied. Like many executives or business owners, pastoring is a job that’s never done (especially when your spouse works at the same place you do). So, it’s not just “goal-oriented” tasks that we need to be aware of. We also need to be mindful of the fact that our bodies often need a full 24 hours to reset. Quite often, I have so many stress hormones raging through my body that, if I don’t get a full day (dusk till dawn) where I can completely stop thinking about the church (or whatever burdens you), you’ll never feel fresh. Even worse, you’ll always struggle gaining “perspective” on your life.
(B). Atmosphere: Part of the reason why I like to travel is because new atmospheres naturally distract us from our typical life goals. My wife and I love to vacation both with and without our kids. Yes, we drive cruddier cars and live in a smaller house than most families (so we can afford these vacations). But I’d rather invest in my family than my stuff. But allow me to explain why.
A new atmosphere enables me to snap out of “Role-definition-Ruts.” When I’m at home, my wife and I have a tendency to only relate to each other as “co-managers of house”… or “Co-parents.” Our conversations are dominated by the logistics of dental appointments and school events. But new locations awaken new dreams, new thoughts, and new adventures. Suddenly my wife is a lover and co-adventurer again… not merely a parent. Or, with my kids, I suddenly relate to them outside of the context of piano lessons and homework. Out of the blue, comes discussions and parenting moments that never would happen if we hadn’t created a fresh and fertile atmosphere. And finally,
(C). Sabbath Preparation: When I was in Israel, it was amazing the degree that many orthodox Jews would go through to prepare for their Sabbath. Many of them forbid themselves from cooking, driving, even turning on light-switches! In fact, many of them have complex software programs that turn on stoves, lights, etc. without them having to even push a button. In fact, many Israeli hotels have “Sabbath elevators” which go from floor to floor on autopilot (to prevent Jews from “working” by pushing buttons). Many of them believe that creative energy is a form of work. So, the moment the Sabbath begins at sunset, the busy streets become completely quiet.
At first, I was a bit blown away by the extremism and zeal that many Jews put into Sabbathing. Yet, at the same time, I was really refreshed by it. And over time, I realized that I had a lot to learn from this.
As you’d imagine, such an approach to Sabbathing requires a lot of prep-work. Everything from cooking to light-switches had to be thought through the day before. And the Early Church Fathers had a term for this vigilance called Otium Sanctum which means: “holy leisure.” And to experience it, it required preparation throughout the week. I.e., If we want to have a great day off, it requires a thoughtful preparation on the other six days.
So let me ask you: What if you took your day off this seriously? What if you saw relaxation as the most sacred act of worship this week? The truth is, relaxation IS sacred to God. That’s why God said, “Keep the Sabbath, because it’s HOLY.”
So, do you want a holy Sabbath… a time off that truly refreshes you? Then consider using the above three ingredients in increasing measure.