My family and I recently returned from our vacation – or, more precisely, our “staycation.” With six kids, it’s difficult enough going to the grocery store – let alone somewhere like the beach or Disney. But that’s perfectly fine by us. We would have it no other way. My wife and I are both homebodies preferring to sleep in our own bed and splurge around town.
While I was away, I couldn’t help but reflect, a bit, on what times like this remind me of. I hope these personal reflections just a little bit helpful.
Reflection #1: I love unplugging.
Genesis reminds us that work was part of God’s good design in creation. It also reminds us that rest was too. Ecclesiastes 2 talks about the man who never takes a vacation or a break. His endless sprinting on the rat race of life is called “vanity.” (Eccl 2:23).
Not only did God set a pattern for rest in creation, He also gave a pattern to Israel. For each week, each month and even each year, the people were required to take regular Sabbath-icals. While we’re under no obligation to keep these same days, the need for physical, mental, and emotional rest is part of God’s design.
I would even go so far as to say that resting is, without a doubt, God’s will for your life.
When people ask me, “So, what did you do while you were away?” My answer is simple: nothing. And I mean it. Absolutely nothing. As D.A. Carson once wrote, “Sometimes, the most spiritual thing that you can do is take a nap.” Amen! That’s why I took a nap almost every single day I was away. I played games with my kids. I did some fun, light reading. (There’s a rumor floating around which claims that my kids finally talked me into reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I will neither confirm nor deny that rumor.) I watched Netflix with my wife. I even played a round of golf with my dad. It was relaxing and refreshing.
My pastoral encouragement to you is simple: be sure you take time to unplug from your work and busyness. Put your phone in a drawer. Go for a hike. Refuse to check email. Plan some time to do nothing. You’ll be glad you did.
Reflection #2: I love my family.
There is never a dull moment in our family circus of eight. Even though the 6 kid-members of The Scarlett Nation can be exhausting, taxing, and even a little bit infuriating at times – I still love every one of them as God’s gift to us. And time away, like this, are a good opportunity for me to remember that my first flock to shepherd is my family. Unlike many men in many occupations, the health and well-being of a pastor’s family is actually part of our job requirements and qualifications. As a wise old pastor once told me, “You can always get a new church but you can’t get a new family.” And spending some uninterrupted time with them is needed.
One of my biggest personal guilt trips, as a dad, is that I never feel like I get to spend enough time with each of my kids. Yes, we all do stuff together. We eat dinner together as a family most nights. But, specific one-on-one time with dad (or mom) is a rarity in our home. It’s a challenge for all parents – but, especially so, for those of us who have bigger families.
But staycation time allows me to not just be the Scarlett kid’s dad, but to more specifically feel like Jeremiah’s dad or Faith’s dad. While away, I got to play dolls with Faith, read books to Abraham, play chess with Josiah, throw ball with Solomon, run errands with Jeremiah, and play some video games with Sam. All of this reminds me that I need to find even more time to do it more often.
My pastoral encouragement to you? When was the last time you gave your family members – wife, kids, parents – your undivided attention?
Reflection #3: I love my church.
Last Sunday, we attended another local church in town. (Funny enough, one of their staff members – that I know well – saw me from a distance. He instantly got a concerned look on his face, broke off his conversation and came right over to me. With one raised eyebrow, he gingerly asked, “Uh…why…what…um…why are you here?” I assured him that I didn’t get fired but that we were just on vacation. He seemed very relieved. In hindsight, I should have told him that we were there recruiting new folks for Forest. Haha!)
We left church last week and (as we usually do) we went around the family and all shared something that we learned. This week, however my kids turned the tables and asked me, “What about you dad? What did you think? Did you like it?” I shook my head and, in an unintentional falsetto voice I replied, “Yeah. It was good.” Despite my words, my oldest son was not convinced. He said, “You seem upset or like you’re not saying something. What did you really think?!” I, again, quickly replied, “It was fine. Really. It was fine.” He said, “But you usually come home from church all excited and energized – and today, you’re being all…you know…weird.” (Which I think is a preteen-way of saying “uncharacteristically low-key.”)
Finally I said, “It’s sort of like going to eat at someone else’s home. The food’s good. The atmosphere’s different. There’s probably stuff you really like and stuff you don’t as much. It’s a good experience. But – honestly – being a dinner guest is just not the same as having a homecooked meal around your own dinner table with your own family. That’s why I’m being all ‘weird’. Church was good – it just wasn’t home.”
With staycation now over, I’m thrilled to be back at home – around our FBC family table.