Vacation, all I ever wanted

Vacation, had to get away

Vacation, meant to be spent alone.

-The Go-Go’s, Vacation (1982)

Did you know that the Hebrew word “sabbath” means “vacation”? Okay, not really. It actually means “cease, rest, complete rest, or desist,” according to the Lexham Bible Dictionary. That ought to be a good definition for vacation, though, shouldn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s not. Too often when Americans go on vacation, we really GO on vacation, seldom stopping – ceasing, resting, desisting. (How often have you gotten back home after vacation, only to flop on the couch and bemoan, “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation”?!)

I’m on vacation this week and it’s been good so far. Definitely not all rest – there’s a lot I need to think about and process through, and that takes energy; I’m not turning my mind off. But I’m being intentional about not going too much or too fast, not doing too much, and getting that thinking time in. Still, this is one of those “vacations” that, in hindsight, won’t have seemed particularly restful. Enjoyable, yes; restful, no.

I had lunch with a good friend and mentor the other day. He’s a police chaplain and gave me a couple books he uses in his work: Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement and Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement. He talked with me about “The Hypervigilance Biological Rollercoaster”® that cops experience: in essence, it’s a cycle that swings from a hypervigilance that views everything as a threat or potential threat – and keeps cops alive on the streets – to the complete opposite when they’re at home, the essence of detached couch potato. Neither state (hypervigilance or couch potato) is biologically normal, and it takes 18-24 hours to move from one state into the normal range where we live like a normal human being. (I have a lot of friends in law enforcement; if any of you are reading this and haven’t seen these books, then I recommend you get your hands on them. Come on, you can read 250 pages – that’s both books combined – that might save your marriage and even your life, right?)

So what do vacation, hypervigilance, and couch potatoes all have in common? Sabbath. Or rather, the need for sabbath. God said we need a sabbath day each week; one day out of seven when we “cease, rest, complete rest, or desist,” – when we “shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:10). God even says the land needs a sabbath (see Leviticus 25:4) every seventh year (ask any good farmer if this makes sense!). My friend says we need sabbath every day; time to unwind, relax, put the concerns of the day behind us.

So there you have it: Sabbath. Rest. Vacation. Daily. Weekly. Annually. Sept-annually (I just made up that word; it means “every seven years”!).

“Vacation, all I ever wanted; vacation, had to get away; vacation, meant to be spent alone.” Maybe those Go-Go’s were pretty smart.

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