Not just fun but fruitful. Not just relaxing but restful. Not just time off from work or time away from home but time with each other. In other words, we didn't want just to go on vacation. We wanted to be on vacation.
So, instead of taking a summer vacation, my wife, our youngest son and I took a Sabbath vacation.
"There are some things that can be accomplished even by God only in a state of (Sabbath) rest," Eugene Peterson wrote years ago in the journal "Weavings." "The work/rest rhythm is built into the very structure of God's interpretation of reality. The precedent to quit doing and simply be is divine."
We didn't quit doing altogether. We still did some of the things usually associated with going on vacation. We made and misplaced lists. We packed everything but the house. We left and came back three times to get stuff we forgot.
On the way to where we were going, my wife got lost. I knew exactly where we were at all times, of course. I stopped to ask for directions only to confirm that and to save my life.
Once we got to where we were going, though, we actually stopped. We didn't shop. We didn't eat out. We didn't visit any amusement parks, historic sites or tourist attractions. We didn't stand in any lines, buy any tickets, or do anything with a credit card, other than buy gas and a few groceries.
We didn't hang out on a beach or in a resort with hundreds of strangers. This was family vacation, not just us. For five days, we stayed right where we were with several other families we've known for years.
We ordered our days with evening and morning prayers. We cooked and blessed and ate our meals together.
We spent a little more time each day in silence.
We played and talked and laughed with our kids, and we watched them play and talk and laugh with each other. We were entertained by dolphins and sea gulls and pelicans. We were dazzled by cloudbursts and sunsets and stars. We spent a great deal of time keenly aware of the sanctity and source of the light, wind, water and living wonders around us. The Earth and the heavens were in motion, but our bodies and souls were at rest.
In his book "Wishful Thinking," Frederic Buechner described the feeling of Sabbath. "For the moment there is nowhere else you'd rather go, no one else you'd rather be. You feel at home in your body. You feel at peace in your mind," he wrote. "Sometimes it is only when you happen to taste a crumb of it that you dimly realize what it is that you're so hungry for you can hardly bear it."
We're not going on vacation again next year. We're being on vacation.