They say Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer.
Alongside being a day where we remember those who’ve given their lives for our country, and a day where families and friends gather to celebrate at the lake, at the parks, etc, it’s also a day that signals the end of the school year and the start of the long summer months.
Which begs the question, now what?
We’ve made it through the last push of final exams, all the graduation celebrations, the Spring weddings and conferences. It’s easy with all of that weighing down on us to just want to completely turn off during the summer.
And in a certain way, you’ve got to do that a little bit. To really be able to recuperate, you’ve got to unplug a little. But we also have a tendency as human beings especially when are overworked and overstressed to totally swing the other way, to indulge too much in thoughtless rest, and to justify it by how much we have labored. I’ve fallen into that pattern myself for sure.
But the thing is, no matter how satisfying that initial “unplugging” is, in the end you never truly feel rested. How many summer vacations have we looked up and said – where did the summer go? Or, as my brother was joking yesterday, after returning home from vacation how often have we said, “I need a vacation from my vacation!” Whether heading blindly into the mindless activity of multiple trips, or staying home and vegging for days on Netflix and inactivity, the tiredness never really goes away and our bodies and souls aren’t refreshed.
I don’t think the differences is in the activity or inactivity. I think it lies in the intention, in the thoughtfulness behind how we use our time. There’s only one summer 2018. There’s only one June, July, and August 2018. And it just so happens that this summer 2018 began on the heels of Pentecost and Holy Trinity Sunday. Has this spiritual reality informed our summer plans? How have I let God into my thoughts about how to use this time He has given me? How have I allowed Him to inform the plans I made with my family during these months?
And I don’t mean a tense hyper-intentionality either – stressing about “perfectly” using every second is just about the best way to ruin a nice day. But rather – how can we strive for an awareness, to conquer a habit where we pause to ask at some point each day: Dear Lord, what do you have in store for me today? How shall I use this day you’ve given me?
I think this is a way to help keep us from entering into that stupor that comes from too much stress and too much over work, from dropping into total inactivity after too much activity. And in this way, we can really have a restful and fruitful summer. Rest is a part of our natural rhythm, and it’s entirely necessary for any activity. Thus how we rest is important.
I’ll never forget last summer when a priest told me that he was looking forward to the summer months of lighter activity so that he could spend more time in personal prayer! How beautiful. Will we be taking more time for prayer this summer? For journaling? For spiritual reading? Or will we “come to” after a watching a whole Netflix series straight through and wonder – what happened to the days? Will we realize all of a sudden that it’s August after having run from vacation to vacation, never having actually made time to seek the silence capable of refreshing our souls? Here’s what I mean:
It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
—C. S. Lewis
So perhaps this question is even more clear: And how free, and thoughtful will we be in our use of time? Freedom is such a precious gift from God, and we can only exercise it fully when we lay our anxieties and stress at His feet. Anxiety will always drive us to two sides of the same coin: ramped up senseless activity or a checked-out binging on inactivity. And the most beautiful and powerful pathway off this hamster wheel of stress is our relationship with God Himself.
We have just experienced the beautiful liturgies of Easter and of Pentecost, of Holy Trinity Sunday. What does that have to say to the reality of our summer? Will we allow God into our personal decisions of how use our summer? Will we allow Him into our family discussions of where we go and what we do each day?
I’m going to try to work on this this summer 2018, and I invite you to work on it too. Will our body, mind and soul be renewed by the end of it? God-willing. Blessings on your summer!