A Pastor tries to relax
When I go on holiday, I pass through three stages.
Peter Baker | 08:05, Friday, 03 August 2012
Stage one is shock and awe. It takes me at least 48 hours to unpack emotionally. That's because I normally hit annual leave in the same way I hit most things: fast and furious.
There's little or no transition or adjustment period between life chapters. I don’t spend the days before a holiday deciding what to fold away into the suitcase or planning the details of a vacation itinerary. There's no slow disengagement from the routine pressures of deadlines or appointments.
In fact the opposite is the case. I cram more into those final hours before departure because I know I’m not going to be on top of the diary for a while. I'm aware of the need to sign off some of the unfinished agendas before I can relax in a deckchair and let the world go by.
Consequently, I go from very busy to nothing in seconds. I crash the gears, hit the brakes and come to a shuddering halt. But even then, when my body stops, my mind is still racing, processing feelings, impressions, conversations and action plans. And it's the overhang of these which create the second phase.
Stage two is flatline. I let go of the busyness which has shaped me for the previous weeks and months. Those hours filled with lung-bursting, energy-sapping meetings, the relentless sermon preparation, the unfinished writing projects, the strategic opportunities seized but now left suspended.
The initial emotional price I pay for such accelerated living is, in my case, disorientation. I reach for the next thing to do and find that there is a blank. Such an emotional and practical vacuum takes some getting used to.
Then a small identity crisis kicks in. Who am I now, without my weekly planner and sermon titles to conjure with? Like a lemonade bottle which has been opened for a few hours, it all feels tasteless and flat. There's no fizz. Life is still, but not in a good way. Stage two stillness is a restless quiet, a directionless pause. Such silence takes some interior reconfiguration.
And so to the arrival of stage three - the landscape of the soul.
Eventually, probably 72 hours and several ice creams later, I am chilled enough not to need to know the plans for the day. I stop writing mental to do lists. I put down the Post-It Notes to self.
A meal becomes less a fuelling station between projects and more a time to properly engage, to have unhurried conversation, to order a coffee to stay rather than take away. Now sleep is not a necessary inconvenience but a renewal therapy.
And in this final stage, the words of Christ, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest", are no longer an introduction to the Communion service which I repeat for others to absorb, but a personal invitation to me. This is truth for my interior world, a pattern of living which I can adopt.
This inward look reveals in me a world too easily overtaken by activism, where the measure of holiness is too often the outcomes column of a performance-based faith.
Stage three is the red flag warning that my soul, which needs to find its deepest contentment in Christ, has surrendered limply to other voices and desires - impressions and impulses not necessarily wrong but altogether too dominant. It is the challenge of this final stage to turn down the volume of that kingdom of noise and let the King speak. To respond to His words and listen to His Spirit, not just in the final stage of holiday, but in every phase of normal living.