The Overburdening of Vacation

Vacation 2015

I can start to feel it. It’s like I’ve run out of gas and I’m running on fumes. The mental exhaustion and emotional wear and tear of the ministry has finally made a physical impact on my life. It’s time for a vacation! In fact, I feel as if I’m overdue.

2014 was such a blur. In that year, I was pastoring part-time, graduating from Bible College, becoming a dad for the second time, buying a house, moving to southeast Iowa, and starting the ministry as a full-time pastor. Things that year were intensely exciting and invigorating. I felt unstoppable…so I didn’t stop. No vacation in 2014.

From the summer of 2014 to the present, I have been involved in the full spectrum of pastoral duties. I’ve worked my 50+ hour weeks, preached my heart out Sunday after Sunday, engaged in intense counseling, visited the sick, and have led in some major changes at our church. Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m NOT complaining! I know that I am blessed beyond belief to be in the ministry, and it’s truly a privilege, but the work of ministry is also exhausting and so now is the time to recharge and relax. So that’s what my family and I will do from May 7-23.

I’m excited. Getting away for a couple of weeks to be with my family will be wonderful…no sermons to prep…no counseling to conduct…no meetings to chair…I’m excited about vacation! In fact, I’m so excited about this upcoming break, that I even have a “final countdown” app on my phone that literally tracks the days, hours, minutes, and seconds till my vacation. Currently, as I write this blog, I have 6 days, 18 hours, 15 minutes, and 10 seconds till vacation. Bottom line…I can’t wait till vacation!

However, as needed as this time of rest and relaxation is for me and my family, I have noticed a sinister dark side to my excitement for vacation. That is to say, I do believe that I am prone to overburdening this vacation…of making this time away handle more than it’s intended to handle…of making this vacation into a mini-Savior…a Savior that will rescue me from the problems and pressures of life and ministry. This is dangerous…dangerous indeed.

You see, a physical vacation is intended to physically restore, rejuvenate, and relax (cf. Mark 6:30-32)…and it may not even be able to do that! We’ve all had the experience of going on vacation and returning more tired than when we left. But at best, this is all that a physical vacation can do, namely, restore our physical bodies. This is all that a sabbatical can handle. This is a vacation’s max capacity. We dare not overburden it. To do so results in disappointment, frustration, anger, and chronic escapism.

Ultimate rest is found in our Savior Jesus Christ (cf. Matt. 11:28-30). He is the Good Shepherd and He alone restores [our] soul (cf. Psalm 23).  We are to look to our Savior Jesus Christ for the ultimate rest and strength that we need. Sound too preachy? Too much like church-talk? Maybe. But it’s the truth.

To be sure, I will enjoy this upcoming vacation with my family, but I dare not overburden it. Jesus might just want me tired, broken, and constantly weary  for His glory. I should be OK with that “for when I am weak, then I am strong!” In the end, tired may be a good place for this preacher to be…vacation this year might have an entirely different purpose. Ministry? Service? I don’t know. I still can’t wait for vacation, but I’ll be looking at it through a different lens and not overburdening it.

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