“He had the appearance of a caryatid in vacation; he was supporting nothing but his reverie.”—Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
A caryatid is a supporting column often seen in Greek architecture, having the form of a draped female figure, motionless and leaving the cares of the world at bay. The confluence of Scott, Charles, and their family’s being on vacation, summertime being the usual time period for vacation, and columnist Mary Schmich’s article, “Make your vacation better”, in the June 12th issue of The Chicago Tribune, all made me ponder vacations. The word vacation comes from the Latin word vacatum, meaning being empty, free, or at leisure.
Everyone at one time, or perhaps many times, pines for rest and relaxation, time to slow down and to put the too often frequent stress of everyday life aside. Mary Schmich’s answer to making vacations more valuable was to take a better look at oneself by asking questions, such as:
· What book influenced you in your childhood?
· Who do you talk to in your inner monologue?
· Which of your behaviors do you wish you could change?
· Are you afraid of dying?
· Who among your friends makes you laugh really hard?
· When was the last time you danced?
· (I would add, who do you love and who loves you?)
Mary’s list goes on, but the takeaway is to think about who we are, what we are doing, and what gives meaning to our lives.
While the word vacation does not appear in scripture, we find the word “rest”. God is our model. “Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished…On the seventh day God finished all the work that he had done and he rested on the seventh day…” (Gen.2:1-2). The Eighth of the Ten Commandments is to Keep holy the Sabbath Day and rest from your labors (Exo. 20:8). Psalm 37:7 says, “Rest before the Lord and wait patiently for him...” In the New Testament Jesus said, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile” (Mk. 6:31). Jesus, himself, withdrew from others to be alone with his Lord and to pray (Lk. 5:16).
My sense is that we are not called to be caryatids, vacant, motionless, or even empty. Rather, vacations offer us the opportunity to recharge our batteries, to rethink our values, to refocus on our path and journey, to take up our staff and follow the One who always leads to goodness. It’s a time to dance, a time to pray, and a time to ponder what gives meaning to one’s life. It’s a time to slow down and listen to creation’s breath and song, to receive the gift of awe for life all around us. It’s a time to dream how wonderful life could be when one follows Jesus. It’s a time to experience the reality of happiness that we are loved.
To God be the glory!