As the years have gone on I have increasingly become a creature of habit, finding myself in a familiar rhythm of life that sustains and nurtures my faith. I’m not a manic early riser, but I am a morning person these days, so my best connections with God tend to be before work in the quiet of my study or on warmer days out on the balcony over breakfast.
I also enjoy a time of examen each evening as I lie in bed – reflecting on how the day has gone, the sense of God’s presence at different moments, the times where I have done well or done badly. The people I have encountered are always a part of that time as I reflect on who is in my life and why.
These days I also find myself much more conscious of God throughout my days, of his work in my work, of his hand in the people I meet and the way I go about by business.
It makes for a robust sense of spiritual health and rootedness, but even with good practices and life in balance I still feel the need for definite holiday times – spaces away from the routines and familiarly of home – time to recharge and live in a different space
Ironically I feel myself often spiritually ‘free-falling’ in these times. The life that is intended to bring renewal and re-energising does so at one level – my body rests from hard physical labour and my mind is diverted from the tasks of business and Christian leadership, but I also inevitably drop any disciplines and my focused connections with God are sporadic and infrequent. It’s a kind of free range’ spirituality where I graze here and there but with no regular pattern.
I remind myself that I need to engage with the basics of scripture and prayer because these are my source of sustenance – my meat and potatoes – but I don’t actually do it. I think about it, feel a little guilty but can’t seem to summon the energy to do much more than a brief skim of a familiar psalm followed by a distracted prayer.
In these moments I fear heading home physically replenished and mentally fresh, but spiritually disoriented.
I wonder what my absence of any regular practice on holidays says of my relationship with God? I wonder if I’m in danger of becoming a professional Christian who reads, prays and ticks the boxes because it keeps the bills paid. I’d like to think I have more integrity than that, but my holidays often leave me questioning. We sometimes go to church on holidays but not always. Those times are too often disappointing. I hesitate to write of our experiences of church in any kind of evaluative way because those comments are unfair to the people in the community we have joined for a brief hour or two. The fact that their music, theology and culture may not have been to my taste is completely irrelevant. They are a bunch of brothers and sisters having a crack at being the people of God as best they know how in some difficult places.
Having written this I should confess that with another month of holiday still to go, I have no great ambitions to change the way things are. I don’t want to bring workaday rhythms into the holiday space. I am not seeking an experience of God thru a church service. It makes me very uneasy to imagine any of those scenarios.
I could probably tell you that I encounter God in the surf, in the vastness of the Aussie outback and in the conversations we have both with friends and others we meet on the road. And that’s true. I often find myself giving thanks for the things we do, the beaches we surf and the people we meet. I know God is ‘not far from any one of us’ and he is accessible if I am willing to ‘tune in’.
But, in spite of the theory of this and even with my attempts to practice it, I find that I lack the sense of connection to God that I hope to have – of hearing from him, feeling inspired by him and of being disturbed by him. I’d like God to poke me, to annoy me even with a renewed vision for life. I’d like to be called to something grander than my life is at the moment and to go home feeling like there is something to be done.
I have listened to sermons online as we have travelled, read Christian books and articles and shared conversation with Danelle and the kids around significant issues of faith, but I feel ‘ho hum’ in my spirit and I’m hoping for more.
At this stage I feel like we will lob back into life in late August and re-enter our regular rhythms with no great ephipany and no overwhelming revelation to spur us on.
Maybe that’s ok.
Maybe that’s just how it is…
Perhaps a holiday of this ilk is simply what we need and my relationship with God isn’t slowly slipping into the toilet at all. It’s hard for me to grasp that (and maybe it’s not the case) but perhaps it is what’s needed for me at this time.
It used to be (in my busy and frenetic youth pastor days) that I would go away on holidays, intentionally ‘look away’ from work but in the rest, fresh ideas and inspiration would form. It’s many years since I’ve experienced that and I’m wondering if it’s no longer a reality. Perhaps in this season of life it is enough just to kick back and enjoy beach, bush and family and to trust that God is still capable of entering my world in dramatic ways if he wants to – or maybe he just wants me to be ok with that not happening too.