People have been telling me to get a tablet or at least upgrade my iPhone so I can continue with my blogs when I go on vacation just like this past week; but, I am not yet that techie to be able to blog away from my study table. Besides, I feel it is going against the very idea of a vacation when we are supposed to “vacate” or empty ourselves of the ordinary things and routines we always have. Vacation is the first and most essential kind of “Marie Kondo-ing” or decluttering of self of so many things we have accumulated that have disfigured us. A vacation is not merely taking a break from the usual stuff and routines in life but to rest and recreate so we find our true selves again. In the bible we find a more beautiful term for vacation called “sabbatical” from the word “Sabbath” or day of rest. Genesis 2:2 tells us that after creating everything, God rested on the seventh day that later God made it His third commandment, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day” (Ex. 20:8).
Vacation is always a gift of God not only for the resources to rest and recreate but most of all, it is a grace to rediscover our true selves by discovering Him again. God rested on the seventh day because He had completed His work; but we people and all creation have to rest so we can all continue to work in God. Every vacation as a Sabbath is a celebration of life, of being children of God because the more we turn away from Him, the more we get lost in life. The more we turn away from God, the more we lose our true identity and self as His beloved children. See how when Adam and Eve sinned: they hid from God because they found themselves naked whereas before, they felt no shame because they felt and found everything good. They have been alienated from their very selves the very instant they turned away from God. Hence, every vacation in the spirit of Sabbath is a return to Eden or paradise!
An author whose name I could no longer recall said that “a sabbatical is when I stop playing God, when I go back to the original image of God.” In our Filipino language, vacation and Sabbath have a more beautiful translation called pahinga. It is from the root word “hinga” or“breathe” which is a verb and becomes “hininga” or breath when taken as a noun. To rest which is “magpahinga” literally means “to be breathed on.” Therefore, to rest as in vacation is to empty ourselves so that we can be filled again with the breath of God or to be breathed on by God! In this sense, in every vacation, we are also re-created by God who fills us with His Spirit. And there lies the true beauty of every vacation when we feel so alive, when all of a sudden everything and everyone looks so nice and lovely as we realize how blessed we are, how fortunate not only to have gone and visited wonderful places and destinations but most of all in having found our rootedness in God – that we are so loved by this personal God who relates with us truly as a Father. When we experience a lovely sunrise or sunset, when we are captivated by nature’s wonders, when we suddenly realize we are alive and existing that no matter how little we may be in this vast universe, we are assured deep within that we are loved and cared for by Somebody bigger and powerful. When we stand in total darkness of the night to see the stars above or be awed by the Aurora Borealis, we realize that even if we are just a speck of dust in this vast universe, we are so special because everything was created for us to see and experience and enjoy! It is an awesome feeling that we exist, that we are alive and most of all, we are far better, more lovely and beautiful than anything because we are the only ones created by God in His own image and likeness.
And there lies the joy of coming home from every vacation as we are eager to go back to share not only the wonderful sights and sounds we have experienced but deep within us – unconsciously – we want to show our newfound self, our refreshed self to others. We yearn to go home after a vacation not because we have nowhere else to go but because we now have a clear direction in this journey of life. Every year we look forward to our vacation, to venture out there somewhere for our Sabbath and let God come closer to us so that we can always come home to ourselves, to our family and friends, and eventually to Him in all eternity. Amen.
Photos by the author: above is sunset at the Assumption Sabbath Place in Baguio City, below is the lobby of the retreat house.