Reader Writes, September 2016
Like many others, I hope, I'm enjoying a cargo of ideas and feelings and refreshment having had some holiday. There were lots of things to remember but the common ingredients were enjoying family, staying with old friends, being outdoors a lot, and marvelling at the beauties of the creation around us. We stayed in a cabin in the woods and did a lot of bramble cutting to nurture young trees. We camped on the West Devon coast where gentle Atlantic rain made fires on the beach all the more joyful. We survived a festival camped on a hillside acquainting ourselves with gravity, and enjoying music, readings, and enthusiasms of all kinds. I even attended a workshop on “idle bee keeping”; a serious apiarist will scorn such an idea, but if your object is first to look after the bees and only to share in the hive's bounty if there is plenty to go round, then it changes everything. Here the bees were greatly honoured and allowed to swarm and grow and gather as if they were in a hole in a tree.
We all know that rest is good and necessary, but we are pushed into ceaseless labour and stress. So it is useful to remember that God gave us the Sabbath, not as an option but as an obligation. It is a lot more than a chance for a rest and lie-in; it is the requirement to take stock, to think and talk to God, ready for a new week. The idea of service to neighbour is closely partnered with feeling refreshed and resourced, as a poet I like puts it “capable of loving and able to be loved”. Holidays are the same, especially when the earth leans to the sun. Perhaps relaxed bee-keeping has something to teach us; there is a bee universe that has existed for millions of years longer than man and his bright ideas. But bees none the less do like it if we give them a box a bit like a hole in a tree. If we take notice of them, speak to them quietly and often, they honour us with their sweetness. We might say that walking with God is just as natural, and it is done well when we walk with him faithfully, joyfully and always. Rest, breaking the routine, time with others, is both obligation and pleasure.
Holidays, like all excursions of body and soul, mean homecomings. What do we bring back? I hope I bring back newly fettled courage, because that's what it takes to do so many things. Time out also refurbishes hope, a hope that knows where we are going. We return laden with gifts, gifts for sharing. We may have learnt how to rest. The natural way for recreation and rest that's always renewing itself is to heed Jesus when he says “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”