OPINION: Take time to rest and relax - The Dean of Ripon

“Have a break” was the heading of a recent leading article in a national newspaper. “Give us a break!” might be the cry of many who feel frustrated by the type of holiday they can take this year.

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 3:37 pm

There has been great uncertainty about travel restrictions to and from other countries, guidance seems to have changed frequently, possibly inevitably so.

The leading article was encouraging our political leaders not to feel compelled to take a staycation to set a good example.

It seemed to be saying that we don’t want them to think we can’t cope without them for a few weeks, and that the relaxation for them gained through taking a good holiday, abroad if necessary, would be a benefit for us as well as them.

The Dean of Ripon John Dobson pictured at Ripon Cathedral..30th April 2021..Picture by Simon Hulme

Well, the staycation approach to summer holidays is proving effective for many among us.

My family and I loved our recent week in the Lake District.

It’s a joy to see so many taking a break here in North Yorkshire, and I’m particularly delighted that large numbers of people are choosing to visit Ripon Cathedral and other local attractions.

Surely, we must all be pleased that so many of us are loving re-discovering wonderful areas of this country. And the weather isn’t that bad!

The Bible is very clear about the need for regular rest and relaxation.

The Ten Commandments, to be found early in the Old Testament, lay down life-giving ground rules.

The fourth commandment makes clear that a weekly, sabbath rest is judged to be essential.

And we can probably all see that planning regular time off from the routine chores and demands of life prevents us from getting progressively worn down.

In the New Testament, Jesus makes it very clear to the religious leaders that the weekly rest day is provided by God for the benefit of people, not as an opportunity to put extra unhelpful burdens on them.

In fact, the fourth commandment also points out that the sabbath is for the benefit of the whole community, including those who work for us, those who are from other communities or countries, and even our animals.

This has a wider message then, which has a bearing on employment laws, how we care for those who are different and those ‘not from round here’, and how we look after animals.

It becomes clear, the choice between flying off to the sun, taking a staycation and risking the unpredictable nature of the British weather, or simply having a break at home and enjoying the benefit of time off, this choice is of secondary significance.

The important thing is to take a break, to relax and to take time to see things a bit differently.

As the Welsh poet William Henry Davies wrote:

“What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows ...

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.”

Helpfully, Jesus took this further.

He realised that it can be more than routine demands and hard work that wear us down.

The cares of life can be many and varied, and yet with all of them, we can turn to him for strength, support and relief.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I suppose he could have said “give yourselves a break, and trust in me”.