By Eugene C. Scott
Where do you go for rest and relaxation?
Is it twelve miles from nowhere up a mountain in the Pecos Wilderness? I’m willing to bet most people don’t consider strapping on a 50 pound backpack and hauling it into the wilds a restful idea.
I mean seriously.
Rest? You have to walk the whole way. There’s no escalator.
Relaxation? There are bears and mountain lions and mosquitos. And dirt. And you eat out of the same pot you cook with and wipe your spoon on your pants when you’re done. And you sleep on the ground in a tent and poop in the woods.
And there’s no Facebook or Twitter.
Still that is exactly what I’m going to be doing over the next few days.
And I will love every inconvenient, dirty, grueling, quiet, slow, peaceful, real minute of it.
A lightness of soul
Why? Mainly because there is a moment after hiking for miles that you shed your heavy backpack and feel a physical lightness that makes you want to grab onto something for fear you might float away. Then later, before crawling into your tent, that physical lightness turns into a lightness of soul as billions of stars salt the night sky. With those stars comes a lightness–a freedom, as if my soul has taken flight and is soaring and breathing again for the first time. To see the vastness of God’s creation–of God himself–is to be reminded I am not in fact the center of the universe. Hunkering down below those mighty peaks and brilliant stars I remember I do not determine the course of world events, or often, even of my own life just as I don’t direct the stars.
Being busy does not equal being important
Up there I know I am not responsible for who becomes president, poverty in Haiti, global warming, or your happiness. That is not to say I do not play a role in these things. I do and so do you. But wilderness tells me in no uncertain terms, you are not all that.
I believe this is why so many of us have a difficult time unplugging and truly taking time off. We are comfortable in our delusion that we are all that.
“How are you?” we ask one another.
“Busy!” we exclaim. “OMG, you would not believe all the things I have to do.”
But here is what we’re really saying:
“How are you?” we ask one another.
“Important!” we exclaim. “OMG, if I stopped doing what I’m doing for just one second, the entire world (at least the one that revolves around me) would collapse.”
The truth is, however, that our worlds do not collapse when we rest.
God likes vacations
Years ago–at the beginning of human time–God created rest saying, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work . . . .” Sabbath–taking one day or more off–is God’s gift to us so that we can feel that lightness of soul. So we know that God, not us, is All That.
Modern science is finally catching up with God on this concept. Elizabeth Lombardo, a clinical psychologist who wrote a book titled A Happy You, says, “Taking a break . . . affords you an opportunity to step back, put life into perspective, and remember what’s really important. It helps get your priorities straight.”
And all this time we thought God was trying to be unreasonable and bossy. And the funny–meaning ironic–thing is that Christians are the ones most guilty of believing being busy equals being important. And pastors may be the worst of the worst at unplugging and resting.
Cat Stevens’ (now Yusaf Islam) old song “Miles from Nowhere” speaks of unplugging and getting our priorities straight:
“Miles from nowhere
I guess I’ll take my time
Oh yeah, to reach there
Look up at the mountain
I have to climb
Oh yeah, to reach there.
Lord my body has been a good friend
But I won’t need it when I reach the end.
Miles from nowhere.
Not a soul in sight.
Oh yeah, But it’s alright.”
For me the beautiful thing about being miles from nowhere and falling asleep under the stars, and marking time based on hunger pains not calendar appointments, and spending several days with a fly rod rather than a key board in my hands is knowing that the world is in God’s hands and not mine. Under that vast dome of stars, I realize true importance comes not from busyness but rather from the fact that the God who created those billion stars and that towering mountain knows my name and has written my story in his book. And this is true whether I am resting or working.
When I return, and you ask me how I am, I hope I answer, “I’m not all that. But it’s alright.”
Eugene C. Scott also believes God likes us to take vacations because it gives God time to clean up the messes we’ve made. Join him in the year The Year of Living Spiritually. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.