Make time for leisure this summer

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley                  June 12, 2016     

In Oklahoma, summer means heat. But, for many people summertime also is when we look forward to a much-anticipated vacation. Whether that means spending time leisurely at one of our beautiful Oklahoma lakes, a trip to the mountains, the beach or just time at home with family and friends, our vacation time is precious.

My seminary rector used to send us home for summer vacation with the fatherly admonition, “Remember gentlemen, there is no vacation from your vocation.” We got the point. Forget about, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!” He was reminding us that our vocation is not something from which we were entitled to escape from time to time. Vocation is something rooted deeply in our identity. It is not something we do. It is who we are. If anything, our vacation time away from the seminary was a time to integrate our vocations more completely into the whole of our lives. The same holds for all of us.

The Hebrew tradition of the Sabbath and our Christian tradition of the Lord’s Day remind us of the importance of rest and leisure. Jesus said, “The Sabbath is made for man” (Mk 2:27). God commands the Sabbath rest not because he needs it, but because we do. We need it to help us remember who we are and who God is. Whether we take our rest on our weekly holy day (the Lord’s Day) or during an annual vacation or a spiritual retreat, rest is meant to be restorative. 

Leisure is a good and necessary human experience.

There is a sacred element as well, of course. As the psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). Vacations help us to refocus. They give us permission to disconnect from the ordinary schedules and responsibilities of work and commerce.

Imagine a vacation in which we gave ourselves permission even to disconnect from our smart phones, tablets and laptops! (Seem impossible? “Nothing is impossible with God” Lk 1:37)! Disconnecting from time to time reveals the liberating truth that the world goes on fine without us. How freeing to discover that we don’t need to be in control all of the time. How liberating to know that “God is God and we are not!”

Taking time to step away from our overly scheduled routines and activities helps us see things and appreciate relationships in new ways, including our relationship with God. Understandably, many people reading this column may live with economic constraints that will not allow a traditional vacation. But, a mini-vacation can be as simple as sitting on the patio, going on a picnic, working in the garden or taking a quiet walk in the woods or under the stars in our own neighborhood. Leisure and rest are humanizing experiences that help us become more alive to wonder and more aware of God’s wonderful providence in our lives.

I pray you will make time to experience the restorative power of restful leisure this summer.