“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer” (F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby).
Summer is for rest. I say that not just because people go on summer vacation but I say that because somewhere along the way, we Americans have forgotten how to rest. Did you know that in 2015 Americans forfeited 658 million vacation days? To put a dollar on that, around 222 million of those days were not roll-over vacation days, so around $61.4 billion was forfeited in benefit pay. We are so consumed with work and the hustle of life that we’ve somehow learned to silence the natural rhythms that God has built in for us. I heard a pastor say one time that in America we have to drink coffee and energy drinks to get going and we have to drink alcohol to calm down. We live in this over-stimulated culture and constantly feel the need to be on. Summer is a great moment to disconnect and rest.
Next time you go out to eat, look around the restaurant. Notice how many people are sitting at the same table not talking but engaging with their cell phones. I think some of that is the over stimulation we are driven by but I also think some of that is part of this epidemic of not being able to be “off.” What happens if you don’t respond to every email immediately? What happens if you don’t return every call tonight? What happens if don’t scroll through every social media platform every hour? I am not sure what is pressing this need to always be on, but the downside of our cultural obsession with being on is that we have poorer relationships, declining health, and lower levels of joy over all.
I love the line above from Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” This idea of new life and new growth. Summer is powerful. It’s a time where we feel called outside. It feels so great in the sun, at the beach, with friends. The Lord in His infinite wisdom and graciousness gives us the rhythm of summer to be pulled out of our race in life to rest, recuperate, reflect, and rejoice. We can sit outside, watch the sunset, watch the lightning bugs, and laugh with friends and family. We can bask in the sun and get recharged in a way that only the summer provides. Here’s the problem, rest will either be a habit and a help to you or it will come in the form of a breakdown, a sickness, or worse.
How do we rest? Let me suggest 3 ideas to help you develop some habits this summer.
Don’t Work Past 5
I don’t know if everyone still works 9-5 so this isn’t a literal 5:00 hardline. I like to get into work earlier so that I have more time in the evenings with my kids. I have friends that work doesn’t start until later and goes later. The point is not the hour but closing time. It’s ok to go home at the end of the day. Turn off your phone, put your computer away, and live. Enjoy your family. Hangout with friends. Get to know your neighbors. Summer will give you so many great opportunities to grill out, go see a movie in the park, or chase an ice cream truck through your neighborhood. Don’t bring work home with you. Your employer will always take more of your time if you give it. Please don’t hear this as a way to cop out of hard work. Put your work in and be a faithful employee to the glory of God. When you finish your work for the day (that doesn’t mean get everything on your list done) go home. You will be a significantly better employee if you set these boundaries and you rest and recharge when you are at home. You will have less sick days because you will be taking care of yourself. This requires real discipline and determination, but the payoff is that work is more focused and life is more meaningful.
Don’t Throw Away Vacation Time
This isn’t just a perk in a job package. Vacation time is given to you so that you can rest and grow. You aren’t a better employee because you don’t use this time. That lie that you have to always be “on” and “available” simply says that you cannot manage your time—and it says it much louder than you think. Vacation time can be invaluable to your development as an employee. It can be a great time for you to learn, to process life, to laugh and come back to the office with stories and perspectives. Imagine having two candidates in front of you to hire. Both have the same education and qualifications. The only difference is that in your interview with one, you discovered that they have traveled, studied, and have a ton of life experience whereas the other doesn’t. Which would you hire? It’s not that vacation time is taking advantage of your company or employer, it’s that you are positioning yourself to be the best employee and you see how travel, experiences, and relationships all make you a better and more equipped person to work with and engage in projects with. Don’t waste vacation days because they may make you a better employee.
Know How You Recharge
Here’s the last simple idea to help you rest this summer: know how you recharge. It’s different for all of us. Some of us like to get up at 5 AM and run 5 miles to recharge. Now, that’s a rare bird but they do exist. Some of us like to read multiple books on our vacation. Some of us like to eat at new restaurants and some like to visit art museums. Recharging looks different for each of us. I think we also have to clarify the difference between resting, recharging, and being lazy. I remember in high school having days off and staying up all night watching movies. That’s not resting or recharging. Honestly, that was laziness. My body was getting more tired doing nothing. Resting and recharging are also different. One is about your body physically recovering and the other is about your mind recovering. Both are important, you just have to know which one you need the most. This takes some time to learn and grow in, but determining this can be the greatest habit you develop in your life.
So, May is almost over. Just one more week. Then you hit the summer. Don’t waste it. God gives us rhythms like summer, weekends, even weather differences so that we don’t burnout. We have to be sensitive to the way we have been designed and the graces God has given us along the way. We are weak and have limitations and that’s ok. Don’t race through life but pace and enjoy the beauty of every moment. Work hard at the work you’ve been called to but rest and recharge when you can in order to be the best employee, family member, friend, neighbor, church member, and child of God. Summer is for rest.