Spring break — is a time of guilt-free renewal. Spring break is a time that many students and families look forward too, . But all too often, we feel guilty about taking time away, as if working all the time and living without margin are healthy approaches to life!
Americans are notoriously lousy about taking time off to relax, renew, and refresh! Research shows that most Europeans take as much as six weeks off per year. Whereas, Americans leave more than 400 million paid vacation days on the table every year!
Vacations and time off are Biblical principles that must be understood and practiced for healthy balance in the lives of Christians. In the Old Testament, feasts that were required by followers of God. These required times of feasting and celebration were breaks from the daily grind of work. Additionally, they were times to remember miracles and celebrate community.
Spiritual health requires that Christ followers practice spiritual disciplines. Three of these can easily be added to a spring break. These disciplines can , be done alone or with family. Practicing these disciplines brings rest and renewal to our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.
In both Exodus and Deuteronomy, honoring the Sabbath is listed in the ten commandments. These commandments were non-negotiable. God intended for these commandments to enrich the lives of His believers, in addition to keeping them out of trouble.
Sabbath is a day of rest. In the Old Testament, the Israelites set aside from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday as their Sabbath. The important idea, here, is not what day of the week one takes off, but the fact that each week, we take time out to rest and recuperate. This is essential for our spiritual and emotional health.
In addition to a Sabbath, the Israelites took off a full year every 50 years called the year of Jubilee in which no work was done, debts were forgiven, and the land itself was given a rest. God established patterns of work and rest, work and rest. Ignoring the rest part of daily life will lead to burn out.
In Deuteronomy, God tells his followers that when they refuse to take a Sabbath rest, they are acting like slaves! We should never work 24/7 without a day off, without a time of rest and renewal.
A second spiritual discipline we need to practice in our life is silence. This is extremely difficult for me. I don’t like silence. I prefer to study with background noise — t.v., music, or even coffee shop chatter. But it is good for our minds when we allow the noise around us to settle down and get quiet. Additionally, silence heals our hearts and minds.
Silence does not mean, lack of sound, but lack of chaotic noise and disruption. Therefore, practicing silence works really well in a spring break. Honestly, if we get out in nature, even though there is white noise (birds, waves, wind, etc), we can easily take time away from the chaotic noise that surrounds us every day — kids, dogs, t.v., phones, etc.
Ecclesiastes 3:7 states there is “a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” We fill our worlds with noise, talk, laughter, tears, noise, chaos, work, noise. We need to take a break from the chatter around us and listen to the silence. When we are silent, God speaks and we can hear Him.
Psalm 46:10 — “Be still and know that I am God!” When we are struggling, when we feel tired, overwhelmed, sick, it is time to take a step away from the chaos and dive into silence.
This final practice might be more difficult on spring break, but it is doable. It might mean getting up earlier than the friends/family you are traveling with and spending time alone with your Bible, your journal, and God. It might mean not going to every museum you hear about, every excursion you can find.
One of my favorite ways to vacation is taking a cruise. On a cruise, you are surrounded by people, and noise, and music, but I have found great ways to find solitude and, yes, even silence on a ship. Some days I wake up early, and go out on the balcony (if we have one), watch the sun rise and journal and read in the quiet — the only noise is the gentle waves lapping against the boat. I have found many secluded places on ships to read and rest during the middle of the day when everyone is at the pool, many of the lounges are empty — I can grab a coffee and find quiet time even there.
Solitude does not have to last long — it isn’t a discipline of 24 hours, like the Sabbath. It is simply setting some time alone with just you and God. You can practice silence, but you can also worship, journal, and pray.
Jesus Himself went away many times to pray in solitude. He knew He needed to escape the demands of people and spend time alone with the Father. Solitude is that easy — time alone with God.
Are you ready and willing to take a break?
In conclusion, this year, take that vacation time. Make your spring break a guilt-free time to renew and refresh. Whether you leave or do a stay-cation, be sure that your time away from work and routine includes a Sabbath. Sabbath is when you spend time resting and doing things you enjoy. Be sure your break also includes silence, so that you can give your mind and heart a rest and hear God’s voice. And also, be sure it includes some solitude — no demands on your time, no distractions, no chores.