Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. ~ John Lubbock
“If I don’t leave town I won’t actually rest.” Matt stood over me with his calendar in hand.
The problem is that if I always leave home then I won’t actually rest. My life is always so busy that a day at home is restful. But for a preacher who is always on-call a day at home is a day at work. Going out of town makes a viable excuse for not checking on things.
So, I pulled out my calendar. We compromised with one day long trip and three short trips a month . . . to a nearby town for a walk along the harbor, to a book store out of town, to a restaurant we’ve heard of but never tried in the next village. It lasted about a month.
“I can only give you one trip a month.” I felt bad changing the plan, but I was suffering trying to be what he needed me to be. He acquiesced, agreeing to take short trips by himself if I would give him the long day once a month.
Then came time for the “day trip”.
“I just can’t go to Ocracoke. We would have to leave at five in the morning and it would be so late when we get back. I just don’t think that would be restful, and isn’t the purpose of these trips to rest?”
I was trying to make Matt not want to go, because I felt like I had too much to do to be gone an entire day. Guilt washed over me like a bucket of dirty mop water. I tried to clean it up, but there was nothing for it. I flat out just didn’t feel like I had time to rest.
I have taught classes about rest. I have written blogs about the importance of Sabbath. I have talked to friends about their issues with workaholism.
Like pouring an entire bucket of dirty mop water over my head, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my duplicity.
We changed the original destination to a closer venue: Cape Lookout National Seashore. We woke at a decent hour, drove halfway and stopped for breakfast, then finished the drive through back roads and blue skies.
The ferry ride from the mainland was picturesque. Clear blue waters, pelicans and herons, even wild horses wandering the shallows and sea oats.
We walked hand in hand along the beach looking for shells, then enjoyed a picnic lunch under the pavilion. We climbed the lighthouse and stayed for an hour looking over the beautiful ocean and sound. Tiny toothpick pines grew a hundred feet below and sea gulls flew overhead.
We spent the entire day. It was relaxing. I forgot about all of the things that just had to get done. I worshiped God in the peace that flooded my body and soul.
The next day I discovered I had clear thoughts to write, I had energy to complete projects, I had looser shoulders and my incessant headache had ceased.
The trips may get moved around on the calendar; an opportunity to see my boy pops up or a flood overwhelms our part of the country, but I no longer try to delete the trip permanently.
Visiting the seaside for Sabbath rest was some very sound advice.
UPDATE: Since my day at Cape Lookout, I have missed two months of these days to rest. So last week, in the middle of a home repair project, a writing deadline looming, and papers to grade, I forced myself to keep the day trip commitment. We went to the zoo. We walked the entire day. The zoo estimates the trails at 5 miles, and we walked the entire zoo twice, so at least 10 miles. Rest doesn’t have to mean sitting and sleeping. I walked out the stress, watched a polar bear play with a float toy, observed river otters swimming, marveled at the power of a cougar’s feet and shoulders, and praised God for his creation. I came away so refreshed and back in tune with my Creator. I’m not sure how long it will take me to learn this lesson, but rest is a commandment I continually forget to obey.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NIV