Summer is a time for getting away from it all. Kids get away from school. Teachers get away from kids. Parents don’t get away from anything.
Some of us feel like Heather Harphan, who, in her book I Went to the Animal Farm, says she’d be all right if she could just get away from herself for a few days. Our lives are often cluttered with ourselves as much as with others and things.
This is vacation season. Odd, though, to think that ‘vacation’ comes from the stem ‘vacate’ — to make empty. We take vacations to empty the mind of what it is usually all filled up of — people, work, school, routines.
But is mindlessness really what vacation is meant to be?
When we go to the lake, or to cooler climes, or even to the flowerbeds for vacation, what we are seeking is time away from whatever weighs down the spirit. We are trying to lighten up, knowing that spiritual heavyweights — like angels — travel light in this world.
Vacation allows us to be mindless about the things that compete for our godly attention, so that we may be mindful to things that comfort us with godly affection. Vacation, in other words, is a good time to renew vocation.
Vocation — from the Latin verb ‘to call’ — is what we are called to do because of who we have been made by God to be. We are none of us self-made men or women. God has given us raw materials to make a life with, and God chips away at all the rough edges and polishes the dull patches until we shine.
Vacation allows us to hone vocation. We get distance to get perspective. We become mindless of lesser things so that we may become mindful of great things. We rest so that we might work with new vim.
The goal is to return from leisure with a different take on labor.
The British Catholic mystery writer Dorothy Sayers said that work “is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do.” That is the qualitative difference between occupation and vocation. And it makes all the difference in the world to whether you roll or jump out of bed in the morning.
Leisure is wasted on those who only work at their off time. There is a grace to doing nothing if it leads to a renewed something. Weary minds don’t reflect; they refract, contract, and finally crack.
We would do well to join the British and call vacations holidays — holy days. Thus our off time from worldliness is on time for godliness.
Spirit needs time to make time matter.