Vacation ≠ Do Nothing
Summer is here. Hallelujah! I know you are enjoying putting the stress and monotony of the school year behind you.
But before you slow down too much remember this: If we want to continue growing spiritually during the summer we must maintain some routine and order. Any type of growth, especially spiritual growth, requires structure.
If we want to come to know the Lord, if we want to become the saints He designed us to be, we need to stop choosing the easy path, the comfortable path. We must step up and establish some order.
Don’t get me wrong, the Lord works through our lives in seasons and summer is a season of relaxation. The Lord loves relaxation. Even God our Father took a vacation when He rested on the seventh day. Every Sunday we recall that day and make Sunday a day of rest, hence “slow-down Sunday.” God created these things and they are good. And yet,
There is no vacation from our vocation.
Our most fundamental vocation is our call to holiness and prayer – to live in a loving, intimate and personal relationship with God the Father, made possible by the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ, through the inspiration and life-breath of the Holy Spirit.
This vocation is ingrained in our human nature. How can we ‘take a break’ from that? We cannot take a break from our pursuit of holiness, we cannot cut off our continual conversation with the Lord.
The Beauty of Order
One of the beautiful things the school year provides is mandatory structure and order. You must get up at a certain time to make it to school. You must be in school for a certain number of hours. You must go home, do homework and eat dinner. And you must go to bed at a certain time so you can get up the next day and start the cycle anew.
You are probably thinking – wait a minute. Didn’t this girl just say something about ‘mandatory structure and order being beautiful’? That schedule sounds awful.
Often, the things that foster the greatest growth are not outwardly appealing or even pleasant. Does that mean they are not good for us? Nope. Examples: allergy shots – not pleasant, but good for our health. Discipline – not pleasant, but good for learning and maturity.
Scripture is clear,
“The Lord disciplines him whom He loves…He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For [at] the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:6, 10-11
So, although order may appear stifling and uncomfortable, we must look at the beauty order provides and the potential for spiritual growth that it offers. There is a great security in order, in knowing that certain things will remain the same day in and day out.
The security of routine reminds us of the constancy of our Lord. He is with us, every day. His love is our constant companion (Psalms 42:8), our counselor (Psalms 16:7), our powerful warrior (Exodus 15:3 & Isaiah 42:13).
Making A Plan
Practically speaking, what does this order look like? How can you structure your summer for success? Order and structure provide an environment for our souls to thrive.
To make a routine we must begin by assessing where we are and establishing a goal. Where do you want to be at the end of the summer? How do you want to grow in your relationship with the Lord?
Once you have established your starting ‘point A’ and your goal ‘point B’, you can identify (may I strongly recommend that you do this with the help of a spiritual director, your parish priest or a trusted youth minister) the steps to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’. Make a plan, create a daily routine and stick to it. Order creates routine, routine forms habits, holy habits are built into virtue.
There are some key things you must include in your daily routine. Humans are creatures made up of a body and a soul. We are not a soul housed in a body or a body harboring a soul. We are both body and soul.
To grow spiritually, we must work to put our whole lives in order. We must make sure that we are taking care of our physical needs: sleep, food and exercise. We must also care for our spiritual needs through prayer, the sacraments, spiritual reading and service to others. To be holy is to be whole.
Doing A New Thing
Summer is a perfect time to relax. It is also the perfect time to form routines, habits, virtues that the Lord uses to transform us into the saints He designed us to be.
My prayer for you is this: You find that every day the structured routine you establish is giving your soul the freedom to come to know Jesus in a new and glorious way. You find that there is a new peace and fullness in your life as you grow in wholeness and holiness. You look back on this summer of growth and rejoice in what the Lord has done in your life.