August 12, 2015

The Value of a Good Break

Written By Cary Schmidt

As I write this, our family has just returned from two cherished weeks of vacation. I’m speaking to a group of pastors and their families, not far from home, but reflecting on our family time together. Word associations from our trip—Solitude. Rest. Family. Laughter. Reading. Photos. Sand. Silly games. Quiet mornings. Golf. Sunsets. Thunderstorms. Shopping. Twins. Waffle House. Ice Cream. Fudge.

Ok, I’ll stop.

Have you established the value of vacation or regular breaks in your annual calendar? You should. For some,  vacation is synonymous with can’t afford—as though a good family vacation requires a lot of expense. It doesn’t. Budget vacations are easy and just as awesome. This is not about affording something. This is about valuing something. We always afford what we value!

A break is very valuable for two really big reasons—refueling and remembering.

1. Refueling

Personal depletion is intangible and hard to discern. For me it’s best seen “after refueling!” In other words, it’s easier to look back and say, “Wow, I was really depleted” than to make the call in real-time and say, “Hey, I’m depleted right now.”

Nobody can stay in perpetual motion. Longevity and faithfulness in any valuable endeavor requires pace and personal stewardship. Finishing the course means making “pit-stops” a long the way to refresh and refuel. Getting to the finish line in your call and relationships will require regular resets.

Scheduling strategic breaks refuels us in several ways:

—Refuel Spiritually—There’s a difference between doing life with Jesus and enjoying life in Jesus. Both are awesome, both are vital, but the daily grind tends to gravitate toward “doing life with Jesus” at the expense of “enjoying life in Jesus”. This is dangerous. Down-time is a choice to enjoy life in Jesus—on purpose.

—Refuel Emotionally—All of us have a finite emotional capacity. Like our lungs require regular emptying and refilling—so our emotional capacity to expend, to feel, to engage, to relate can wear down. It needs regular reset. Vacation gives your emotions a chance to breath and recalibrate.

—Refuel Mentally—My mind is a finite resource. (Yes, I just wrote that—feel free to run with it.) Sermon preparation requires the ongoing mental consumption of an insane amount of vital information, and then the coalescing of that information into semi-coherent thought-flow. In time, my mind gets tired. My heart might be right, my spirit strong—but a tired mind makes me rather useless. Vacation gives a tired mind some margin to refuel and think about other things, which eventually makes it “want to” think about needful things again.

—Refuel Relationally—Have you noticed how life’s most cherished relationships tend to drift—to stop being “cherished.” “Stressed, busy, burdened, tired you” is really bad at relating in patient love and nurture. On the other hand, a “spiritually, emotionally, and mentally refreshed you” makes for a pretty likable person—relatable, lovable, and loving. Vacation gives you an opportunity to bring a joyful, healthy soul back to life and back into cherished relationships.

2. Remembering

Life moves quickly, and we are prone to forget. We forget who are we in Jesus and how blessed we are. We forget where He’s brought us from and where He’s leading us. In the rush of our days, we fail to stop and look—into the sunset, into the Word, into our future dreams, and into the faces of those we love. We forget to marvel at grace, stand in awe of the gospel, and worship God’s beauty. We forget just how incredibly special “right now, right here” truly is!

Want to now what I noticed on this vacation?

—I noticed that my wife radiates delight in her family like a candle radiates light. It expels from her incessantly, naturally, exuberantly in glad-hearted joy and service—like it’s being sourced from a secret, limitless supply. She’s a giddy bundle of “love everybody I know!” She laughs hardest at herself, and constantly keeps us all entertained and well-loved. How does she do that? I notice, and I admire her. I learn from her! I want to be like that lady.

—I noticed my oldest son cherishes his wife and kids with authentic depth and a kind of leadership that looks a lot like Jesus. He leads and loves with a delicate balance of strength and gentleness. He cherishes her as his best friend. He serves and loves people, and uses his gifts in ways that make it look easy and awesome! He’s become the kind of man I want to be one day. How does he do that? I notice, and I admire him. I learn from him! I want to be like that guy.

—I notice my daughter-in-law graciously and joyfully cares incessantly for demanding twins like she’s floating on air—she makes it look almost effortless, stressless, seamless—like she doesn’t even need the sleep she’s missing. She glides through the toil, making it look more like art than stress. Then she does the same for her husband—all while appearing to be quite in love with him as her best friend. How does she do that? I notice, and I admire her. I learn from her. I want to be like that lady!

—I notice my second son finds humor in literally everything, with impromptu wit, writing bizarre songs and singing them in strange voices, seeing the common in comical ways with oddly different, hilarious perspectives. He does this all while simultaneously remaining deeply serious about life, God’s will, and what truly matters. He entertains his “audience” and engages their hearts meaningfully and respectfully at the same time. Again, I want to become like this man. How does he do that? I notice, and I admire him. I learn from him. I want to be like that guy.

—I notice my daughter has become a beautiful, emerging adult who looks insanely like her mother, yet who embodies a character and heart all her own. Her hair, her eyes, her smile, her spirit are all quite captivating; but her laugh is just the coolest. She’s a delightful “laugher.” At the same time she’s a deep thinker—she asks big questions, sources good answers, and then writes about them with a depth and eloquence that I only dream of. How does she do that? I notice, and I admire her. I learn from her. I want to be like that girl.

—Finally, I notice my twin grandchildren—in fact, it’s well beyond notice. It borders on OCD fixation. These babies turn me into something stranger than Bugs Bunny on a drug trip. They compel chipmunk voices, contorted faces, bizarre utterances—it would all be ridiculously embarrassing in any other context. Remove the babies from the picture, and I would be institutionalized in a nerf cell. These funny little people have the spell-binding power to make me lose my mind on cue—I lose all “self-awareness” and am reduced to drooling, cooing clown! How do they do that? I notice… and then I notice something else…

Good sense returns like a bolt of lightening—a smell, a sound, a warning sign of an impending “juicy-burp”—at which point I immediately do what the “International Handbook for Grandpas” says to do—I hand them to their mother or Nana (or, even better, to their father!)

In life’s daily grind, I’m not sure I would notice these things in the same way. A break gives margin to remember—to notice. The net impact of a good vacation is that life becomes lighter and sweeter. Your heart becomes more buoyant, which is good for everybody you know.

Life tends to feel heavier over time. But a break allows your heart to recalibrate to load. The demands of life have a tendency to grow in their perceived “weightiness.” Simply said, the longer you “bear up” under the something, the heavier it feels. Carry a gallon of milk for a few minutes—you’ll see what I mean. Something that isn’t really “growing in heaviness” can feel like it is.

The longer I bear up under life’s demands without taking a break, the heavier and more crushing those demands feel. “Feel” is the operative word here. They may not actually be growing in intensity, but a lack of prolonged rest reduces my emotional and spiritual capacity, which makes it all feel heavier and perhaps inescapable.

A good break resets the weight sensor of the heart. It has the impact of making life LIGHTER and making YOU LIGHTER.

Heavy you (I mean emotionally/spiritually, although vacation indeed has an impact on our physical magnitude doesn’t it? Can we say “cinnamon rolls?”)—HEAVY you is hard to live with.

A good break is valuable because it reminds you that life isn’t as heavy as you think or feel. LIGHTER you is a real pleasure to relate to, to know, to hang with, and to go through life with. LIGHT YOU knows how to laugh, even in hard times. LIGHT you remembers how to put all the weighty stuff into God’s hands and trust Him. LIGHT you is who makes Jesus so attractive to others! That’s the Christianity you teach and preach—and it should be the Christianity you live and enjoy as well.

A good vacation—not necessarily an expensive one—but a good one will put you there. It’s about refuelingand remembering. It’s about getting out from under “heaviness” and coming back to “lightness!”

Can I tell you what’s going to happen? Your kids (or grandkids) will grow up. The years will evaporate. Truly, they will. The things that “kept you from taking the break” will not fulfill you. In fact, they will crush you. You will wish you had submitted to a more loving, less demanding Lord.

You will either look back and say, “I’m so glad we did…” or “I so wish we had…” Your kids will either say “Remember when…!” or “Why didn’t we…?”

Your photo-stream will scream at you, “You should have filled me up!”

So—do it. Value the value of a good break. You’ll be glad you did!

It all makes me want to take another vacation! (All in good time…)

Thanks for letting me ramble!

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)