During one of my early years as a pastor, I remember eagerly looking forward to spending a couple of weeks of traveling on a family vacation. Before I left on that trip, an elderly Baptist minister suggested that even while I was on vacation, I should be alert to ways that God might want me to be a reconciling presence with people I met. I took that advice to heart, and had a remarkably rich vacation as a result.
Looking back, however, I also recognize the importance and even necessity for pastors and their families to receive rest and relief from the demands of pastoral life and ministry, which can often feel relentless. To my Baptist friend, I would now say that it’s also vital for pastors to take regular sabbath-ing breaks. In other words, a vacation needs to be more than an extension of one’s pastoral ministries and duties. It can also be a much-needed occasion for being renewed by God’s loving Spirit.
These two perspectives mean that when I’m on vacation, I’m to live as an apprentice of Jesus AND it is good for me to enjoy rest from my work. With that in mind, I’m attracted to a prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that names the dependency on God and the honesty before God that I’m convinced is just as important for daily life as for being refreshed. I’ve copied an English translation of Bonhoeffer’s prayer below. It is followed by a short song from the Taizé Christian Community in France; this song has often become an earworm for me, and has nurtured me in my life with God.
May God bless you (and me) with a wonderful summer of living in God’s way.
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you: I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me….
Restore me to liberty, and enable me to live now,
that I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring, Your name be praised.
Here is my rough and more-or-less singable English translation of Aber du weißt den Weg for mich (click here to listen):
God, gather all my thoughts and then turn them to you.
With you is the light; you forget me not.
With you there is help; with you is patience too.
I do not__ understand your ways, but you know the way__ for me.