It sounds so natural and easy. What could be more rejuvenating than passively soaking up the vitamin D rays on lazy summer days? The streets are free of snow, backyards and parks open for Frisbee and grilling. Clouds and waves wash by, begging to be watched and interpreted. What could be more spiritually fulfilling than that?
It is natural and easy to mistake relaxation with matters of the spirit. While it is true that rest can help bring us to a place of possible spirituality, rest itself should not be mistaken for spirituality. Thinking of lazy days as spiritual is a little like mistaking vacation planning for the vacation. Rest and vacations can bring us to a place where some kinds of spiritual exploration and growth are possible. Rest and vacations can also teach us certain things about spirituality. For example, there are three things spirituality and vacations have in common:
1. For both, vacations and spirituality, it’s all about being there, being present;
2. For both, “there” should be somewhere even if that somewhere is nowhere;
3. And for both, “there” should have content– even if that content is nothing.
The notion that summer reading should be light is a pernicious falsehood. Use this time to read something that challenges you. Begin by asking questions of the grass and the waves—obvious questions that you know about but don’t have time to ask on other days:
1. Why am I here?
2. What is really important to me? Do I make a difference?
3. Did I fill the world with love; Am I all that I can be; Do I feel God all around me in this universe?
4. What is the next important thing for me to do in my life?
It’s no accident the High Holy Days follow summer—not to wake us up from summer slumber, but to facilitate the integration of all our summer growth before we enter winter.
This summer, go where you have never gone before. Return in the Fall, tanned and deepened.