With the summer holidays finally here, I imagine most of us will be heading off on holiday at some point over the next few months – hopefully not just as the rain arrives, although don’t our gardens and fields need it!
I wonder if you ever feel guilty about taking time off? Do you see it as an indulgence? Or do you see holidays as an important gift from God that we neglect at our peril?
The trust is, we are made to rest.
The story of the creation of the world, concludes with rest. And after bringing the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, one of the first things God did was to command them to take a day a week to do no work. Just imagine what a huge gift that was.
Here was a group of people who for 400 years had been enslaved by Pharaoh. They have been forced to work, day in day out, labouring to make bricks that would become buildings to display Pharaoh’s glory and power and to remind them of their own oppression and powerlessness.
They were made to work against their will; their identity shaped by how many bricks they were able to produce.And yet, when they were finally delivered out of that situation, God commands them to rest. There was a lot they needed to do – they had no land, no home, no income. And yet God invites them to rest so that that can discover who they are as a people who have been set free. In the space, in the rest, the identity of his people shifts from being rooted in the number of bricks they bake in a day to whom they belong to; ‘whose’ they are – God’s people. In the same way, a regular day-off and time away from work is God’s way of helping us to remember that our identity is found not in what we do, but in who we are, who we belong to, who or what we worship.I wonder if we can hear this invitation from God to rest? So much around us shouts that we are defined by what we do, rather than who we are.
People get busier and busier, somehow thinking that doing more is what life is all about. And yet, in all the busyness, something of our humanity dies under the suffocating weight of all those demands and expectations that have us running around in circles.
The invitation from God is to break free by resisting this and by allowing him to breath his life into us through resting regularly so that we can be renewed with him, and by him, through time alone and with others; through time not working, time just being.
Viewed like this, time off, time on holiday, becomes time worshipping God: time growing in our relationship with him, time understanding more about who we are, and who he is calling us to become.
Viewed like this, maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised when God uses holidays to speak to us about what we are doing with our lives, as he calls us back to the things that really matter.
So this summer, my prayer is that we’ll all be able to receive time resting as a gift from God, and that through that space we’ll hear something new from God about who we are and about how we might become more alive as the people God has made us to be.
Have a wonderful summer.
The Reverend Canon Sam Corley is the Rector of Leeds.