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  • Pr Lionel Neo (CPC)

Spending Your Holidays

"At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside … Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer."

- 'The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe', 1950.

Many students throughout Singapore have been looking forward to this moment. The holidays are here!

I remember the days when a long holiday was just starting. It was a special feeling, not just down to the fun and relaxation I could finally indulge in; it was also the anticipation that more enjoyment was around the corner. Yet at the same time, as a long holiday neared its end, there was often a sense of gloom, and even regret – where had all the time gone? What have I actually done with my time?

Looking back, month long holidays are really a privilege which I will probably never have again. What will I say to my 15-year-old self regarding the mid-year holidays, or my 21-year-old self about the university summer break?

Let me suggest 3 ways to look at long holidays from a Biblical perspective: Holidays are a time to relax, as a time to redeem, and a time to reset.

A time to relax

In biblical scholar Ben Witherington’s book ‘The Rest of Life’, he makes this comment about play: “Play is quite rightly seen as a celebration of life lived to its fullest, its fastest, its highest, its limits … Playing is not a useless activity. It anticipates the joy of the eschaton.”[1]

Christians tend to not have a robust theology of play and relaxation - we often view it as a furtive pleasure (that God frowns upon), or something that falls under the secular part of our lives, which is somehow divorced from the sacred part.

Joy Davidman, in her insightful article about the Sabbath, writes that such thinking makes God “not as the Source of joy, but as a foe of all joy”.[2] Instead, she proposes that the God-given pleasures of body and mind should be viewed as “faint foreshadowings of the supreme pleasure”, God Himself.

We can relax with a good conscience. And more importantly, we should relax with a God consciousness. We can apply this perspective by cultivating gratitude. Do the things that you like – wisely of course.

Play some games. Enjoy nature. Travel. Have long lunches with your friends. Watch a movie.

But do it with the gratitude that acknowledges God as the source of all blessing and joy. And do it with the anticipation that there will certainly more delight around the corner – when the eschaton come, and God redeems creation fully, and God’s dwelling place is with us (Revelation 21:3).

A time to redeem

As a counterpoint to the previous case, holidays are also a time to redeem. We may look forward to the eschaton, but we do not yet live in it. As Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

Of course, as Christians, we know that the time we have on earth is all given by God, and we are called to be wise stewards of it. Many people live as though they will never die, and die as though they have never lived. The saying applies to holidays too - we spend our holidays as though it will never end, and at its holiday's end, we think it misspent.

Rest and relaxation is necessary and good, but cannot be the end goal – we are called to a higher purpose, to advance God’s saving kingdom. Also, we are called to glorify God in our roles and responsibilities – being a student included.

We can apply this by practicing discipline and setting goals. Set a challenge (or a couple of challenges) for yourselves. Learn something new. Revise and go deeper what you have already learnt. Volunteer. Commit to serving in church. Work at a place where you can grow in your skillsets and as a person. Reach out to your pre-believers.

And I assure you, you will look back on your holidays as a time well spent.

A time to reset

There exists a tension between the above two points (play vs work, relaxation vs discipline), and that is indicative of a deeper split. Modern folks are shaped by two identities, which are orientated towards two different visions of a good life.

In the former case, a good life looks like being able to decide for oneself and be free of the nagging of one’s parents (for younger kids), achieving financial freedom and being able to do whatever we want, whenever we want (for adults).

For the latter, a life that is well lived is one that is marked by achievements, individual growth and how much we’ve ‘value-add’ to society. In a way, what we think of a long holiday does hold a mirror to our souls – where we think our identity lies. Are we the type to give ourselves fully to indulgence when given the freedom to do so? Or we are the type that needs to go through a long checklist of ‘to-dos’, or do we feel like we have fallen behind in the race of life?

But who are we truly? Augustine once said, “You (God) have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Confessions, 1.1.1). We are called to deep communion with God, and intimacy with Jesus. Certainly, we can have communion with God through practicing the means of grace everyday; through word and prayer. But we also remember what Jesus said to His disciples, “'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest' (Mk 6.31). This call is not just a call to rest (absence of work), but a call to be with Jesus in a place of solitude.

But there’s something special about devoting an extended period to be with the One whom loves us fully, so that we can reset to our true north, before we enter the hustle and bustle of everyday life, school and work.

There are lots of material available on how to put this into practice, and I’m sure your pastor or youth leaders will be glad to assist you, either in the form of materials for self-directed personal retreats, or having a guided retreat in a group setting.

May our holidays be a time well spent!

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