The Value of Doing Nothing

nothingI am back in the office today after taking two weeks off for vacation. A lot of people have been asking, “Where did you go?” and the answer is, well, nowhere. There are a couple of reasons for that, most notably an early June trip to take my daughter on college visits back east (including the subsequent realization that next year we will be paying for said college) and the successive recent financial hits of needing a new garage door opener, a new refrigerator, and new tires for my pickup. Well, at least my housing allowance will be happy!

But even if we did want to spend money on getting away, I’ve come to realize that there is great value in having a vacation that actually doesn’t involve going anywhere at all. Sometimes a getaway vacation can be so stressful to the body and the wallet that you actually need to plan a vacation from your vacation. Staying home, on the other hand, can be a real opportunity to actually do what vacation is intended to do: give you a period of rest.

So, for the last two weeks I read some books I’ve wanted to get to, including a massive and wonderfully written book on the western front in World War II (The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson), a book by one of my Asbury professors on the Wesleyan movement (Being United Methodist by Ellsworth Kalas), a hilarious look at parenting by Jim Gaffigan titled Dad is Fat, and Without Apology, a collection of sermons from theologian Stanley Hauerwas. I spent some time going to my son’s baseball games and took a few afternoons to throw him batting practice in the cage. I watched my long-suffering hometown Pittsburgh Pirates take over first place in the National League Central Division. I took both kids to the library and out to lunch, went to a lecture on the New Testament canon, had a few dates with my wife, rode my bike to the YMCA for workouts and took naps just about every afternoon. I went to a concert with my favorite band, Rush. I went to a couple of different church services and actually got to receive communion rather than serving it. In short, it was a simple time to do stuff I felt like doing (including nothing) rather than stuff I felt obligated to do, which, in many ways, is the definition of rest. 

Truth is, I really like that kind of vacation. I actually feel rested today and ready to get back to the work of the church. Maybe this is what God meant by the whole idea of Sabbath – to knock off for awhile so that you can actually feel rested enough to get back to the vocation of loving and serving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Some people have looked at me funny when I said was doing nothing on my vacation, but I think that’s the result of a culture that believes that something only has worth if it involves busyness or spending money.

I’m already stacked up this week with meetings and classes every night, and the busy fall season is looming, followed by Advent and Christmas, and then Lent and Easter. I will be in output mode most of the time for the next nine months, but I will remember that sometimes it’s right and a good and joyful thing always and everywhere (to quote the communion liturgy) to not only praise God but to rest in his presence and take time to enjoy the people and the creation he has given us. There’s real value in doing nothing on a regular basis!

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