Summer is here. The world is screaming it. The trees have leaves, the grass is green, the sun is shining, and my son’s school is ending. The question comes up quite frequently: What are you going to do to keep busy this summer?
Almost daily we receive fliers from recreation centers, churches, schools inviting my kids to enroll in a class, join VBS, come to camp. Go go go. Do do do. More more more. I find myself panicking under the pressure of it all. The togetherness. The activities. The daily-ness of it.
Much of my angst over summer vacation comes from my belief that I should be structuring our time so that my kids can get as much out of summer vacation as they can. I am responsible to make sure that no one is bored and every day should be filled with stimulation, learning, and, of course, fun.
But the past year was wrought with change and exhaustion. We moved twice. Our kids enrolled in new schools. We found a new church. We have been adjusting to our new lives emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I find myself wanting it all to stop. To sleep it off.
I see it in my kids, too. My first grader’s interest in school is waning. He wants to be home with his parents and brother. He wants to explore the backyard, dig a hole to China, climb the trees, and set the record for the most laps ridden up and down the alley.
My kids need to stop. To play. To rest.
So I pause from sending in the registration forms and consider, what do we need this summer? A new experience? Or a fresh perspective.
Renewing My Mind
Immediately after God created the world, he stopped. He rested. Because he rested, he called the seventh day of the week holy and commanded his people to rest as well. But God didn’t stop there. In the Law, he formed annual festivals to rest, worship, and celebrate together. Moreover, every seventh year was to be a Sabbatical year when no one worked but trusted in the Lord for their provision.
In Jesus’ time, the day of rest became a load to carry instead of a grace to receive. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law measured how people kept the weekly Sabbath, enforcing such rules as one should not wear a wig or false teeth on the Sabbath. Jesus admonished them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, NIV), then called to the weary and burdened, “”Come to me… and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NIV).
But do we follow that call? The one that pulls at our hearts’ desires for a bit of a break from the race of the world? I know I, like the Pharisees, like to know I have accomplished something. Doing more proves I am worth more in my fallen sense of self. The world’s voice with all of its opportunities is alluring. Perhaps if we do all the things, then we will find fulfillment.
It feels frivolous, but I believe to observe Sabbath or a sabbatical forms our spirits in ways we cannot see at first. To stop is to practice our faith that God will provide for us. To stop is to receive God’s gracious love without proving we deserve it. To stop is to acknowledge that he is God and we are not.
Our family is taking a summer sabbatical, stopped before God. As much as possible we will seek restoration. We will play at home. We will sleep in. We will receive God’s gift of rest in this season. In this act we are forming our kids’ minds away from the hustle of the world and toward the stillness of God. We are helping them stop in order to hear. To receive. To be.