I’ve just returned home from a few days of vacation. For the last 19 years or so, my family has spent a week away with my in-law’s and it has been a gift. Some focused time with grandparents is a gift to my daughter. For my wife and I, a chance to reconnect after busy seasons of ministry and life.
The vacation time often flies by. We long for another few days to celebrate the slow-down.
However, all things must end. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t be vacation. It would just be life.
What I have come to notice is that just as important as the time away is the process of re-entry. We typically don’t spend much time thinking about how we come back from time away, because the leaving is such a grace and a challenge.
The re-entry into the rhythms and habits of our “normal” life is a critical piece to the journey of becoming with Jesus. Following a model that appears in Jesus’ life, what I like to call “advance and retreat,”* we find that after Jesus went to quiet places and prayed the return was dramatic (see Luke 5:16).
Many of us return with laundry to be done, mail to be picked up, and jobs that beckon us back to activity. More than that, they beckon us back to the same activity that we left behind. This is true whether we’ve been gone for two days or two weeks. There are many things we have put in the category of “we’ll take care of that when we get home.”
How do we take the restful rhythms of vacation back into the unrestful tide of daily life?
First and foremost, I realize that not everyone can afford to take time away. Whether two days or two hours even, the economics of vacation are often unsustainable in our (speaking from my seat in the U.S.) work culture. I want to be honest and say that vacation can be done locally and without much expense, but it does take intentionality.
Camping, for example, can be a time where we step out of the rhythms of life – and of modern life. We then return to what Wendell Berry calls “keeping an inventory of non-commercial goods” as we soak in the beauty of creation.
In any case, how do we come back from time away? How do we drink deeply from the well of our time out of rhythm after we return to the well-worn paths of our lives?
I write this primarily because I struggle mightily with re-entry. When we returned home yesterday, I vacillated between “let’s get everything done” to “why can’t we drag this out one more day?” So, my thoughts below are directed as much at myself as to anyone else.
1. Harvest the fruit of your “inaction.”
One of the more helpful parts of leaving your normal rhythms of work and responsibility is what happens when you’re gone.
My guidance to folks who are thinking about practicing Sabbath rest for the first time is to watch what happens when you resume working. What we notice is that while we were resting or vacating, the world kept on spinning.
Apparently keeping the world moving is not our responsibility.
This is not a statement of our worthlessness, but simply a statement about the extent of our personal power. Sabbath reminds us that we are at work (and play) in a world in which we are not the primary forces. God himself cares for us and others, even when we release our force for a bit.
When you return from vacation, take a moment to look around. Notice the things that remained healthy, functional, and vibrant even in your absence. This noticing can lead to both gratitude and humility, which are lovely counterparts within our spiritual journey.
2. Check your gauges.
Typically, our time of vacation (or retreat or rest) provides us with refilled energy tanks. We often enter into time away with depleted resources. These resources are necessary for us to continue our pace of life in this season.
When we set out on a time of rest, the goal is to release the output (energy, work, thought, influence) to focus on input (sleep, mental refreshing, relationship building).
The truth is we are meant to function as conduits. We need the energy coming in to provide for the needs going out.
Returning home this week, I took a bit of an inventory. Where were my “tanks” refilled? I noticed that my energy and inspiration tanks returned to full volume at some point during the week. My relationship tanks were filled a bit, though not as much as I had hoped.
The reason we check our gauges is that we assume since we went on vacation we are completely re-energized. That isn’t true.
Investigating the results of our refueling process helps us to dialogue with our own souls.
Perhaps we need to invest a bit more in the weeks after vacation to refill those energy tanks that did not receive enough attention.
3. Hit the ground jogging.
I wanted to suggest “speed-walking” here, but the mental picture is just too hilarious.
It is good for us to hit stride when we return from time away. The easiest way to get stagnant and to misplace the energy that comes from time away is to say, “Let’s ease into things.” While that may be a good idea if your travel created jet lag or tons of laundry, there is a downside to letting the “ease” go on for too long.
And yet, we can also hit the to-do list too hard. We can unpack, do laundry, and simply “move on.” I do believe in a transition period between times of rest and times of activity, and the length of that time is dependent on each person’s makeup and context.
So, I suggest jogging. Perhaps this means cutting your to-do list in half as you return from vacation. Prioritize the things that are truly non-essential for next week. Focus on the things that take immediate precedence. Take care to check in on your “gauges” as you do this. Notice any unusual depletions that take place in the first week. Take a moment to think about where that energy is going.
Again, this applies whether you do a staycation in an adjacent town or if you fly to an exotic destination.
Re-entry allows us listen to our own souls, the place where God is constantly at work.
May you have the grace to leave and enjoy some rest in the remainder of this summer. And may you experience a beautiful, healthy re-entry into whatever world in which God has invited you to play.
*You can read more about this model of “advance and retreat” in my e-book The Jesus Rhythm: Finding a Life of Advance and Retreat. Go to my website (www.caseytygrett.com) and sign up in the box that appears as you scroll!