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It’s spring break season, and I returned earlier this week from a family road trip to Florida. As we made our way north, we chatted about what trips might be next. I guess I’ve still got vacation on my mind. 

My husband’s company recently made the switch to unlimited vacation time for salaried employees. This concept, at first, seemed too good to be true. As much time off as he wants? Let’s get out the map and start booking trips!

But something strange has happened as we’ve adjusted to this new concept—it’s actually been trickier for him to take time off. When the vacation time is unlimited, boundaries are something to be determined rather than given. 

Whereas in past years extra time off in December to use up every bit of vacation time was a no-brainer, now it’s not so clear.  Unlimited vacation time makes one ask:  have I been out too much already? What about those few days I was sick? Am I caught up enough in my work to take the time off? What will my boss think, really? Will it impact my evaluation?  Will I inconvenience my colleagues and leave them with too much to do in my absence? 

A recent article in Forbes Magazine discussed the trend of unlimited paid time off: “Unlimited vacation seems like a dream. Here’s why it’s not as great as it sounds.” The article outlines how Microsoft, Adobe, and Netflix, are among the companies to recently move to unlimited time off. 

Companies say that offering unlimited vacation allows them to better attract and retain talent while improving morale and engagement, and saves some of the administrative hassle. Since salaried workers aren’t generally clocking time, their hours are already more nebulous, and even when they’re away from work, employees may be checking email or jumping on online meetings that require their attention. Some also argue that giving employees as much time off as they want—or dare to take—demonstrates trust and shows workers that they’re valued. It also ensures companies don’t have to pay out unused time when an employee retires. 

But like my husband has discovered, there are also cons. While some worry that employees might abuse the extra freedom and take too much time away, research actually suggests that “employees often end up taking less time off under unlimited policies than traditional ones for fear of overstepping or losing an edge to those who stay in the office.” An attempt to attract and reward employees can backfire, leading to less time off, more stress, and greater burn out. 

While contemplating this debate over vacation time, I couldn’t help but make the connection to another discussion I was involved in recently about faith, sin, and boundaries. One person, struggling with a lack of certainty and worrying about standing on the edge of a “slippery slope,” pleaded aloud his desire for God to give a more clear boundary. 

Very few things are actually unlimited in our world. And even the things we might wish were unlimited—money, free time, or ice cream—can be dangerous in excess. Is that much freedom ever healthy? 

I have a vivid memory of being a young girl and trying to wrap my mind around the concept of infinity or everlasting life. My head would start to spin and I was eager to change the subject. Something that big scared me.

But is it so with God’s grace and love? Could something so good really be unlimited? Or, maybe a better question: if God’s grace and love is deeper, higher, and larger than we can imagine, does it sometimes make us more uncomfortable than we’d like to admit?

Like a desire for clearly defined vacation time, in Christian circles there is often a desire for guardrails, a desire to have clear boundaries, and the ability to name who is in and who is out. There can be a tendency to put limits on God and grace; there must be something we can do to be a bit more deserving— or things bad enough that should disqualify others. 

In her book Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People, Nadia Bolz Weber tells the story of leading a Christmas service at her church in December 2012, just days after the Sandy Hook school shooting. Because “we’ve lost the plot if we use religion as the place where we escape from difficult realities instead of as the place where those difficult realities are given meaning,” Nadia planned, during the prayers of the people, to read the names of the twenty-six victims of the school shooting and ring a bell after each. 

Until her intern interrupted her to ask, “You mean twenty-seven?,” suggesting that they should also read the name of Adam Lanza, the shooter. 

Nadia paused, argued, but eventually relented: “Fine…but I am registering my opposition to God’s grace.” 

She writes: “John’s gospel says a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. God chose to enter a time as violent and faithless as our own, yes. But the other thing we must confess is that the light of Christ cannot, will not, shall not ever be overcome by that darkness. Not by Herod. Not by Adam Lanza. The light of Christ is so bright that it shines even for me and even for them.”

If we find unlimited time off difficult to manage, it’s no surprise God’s grace and love trips us up, too: both giving and receiving it. While freedom may propel us to obedience, it can also make us stingy and tightfisted, afraid of the enormity of its goodness. But if God’s grace and love make us uncomfortable at times, maybe that means we’re getting a bit closer to understanding it.  

Header photo by Chen Mizrach on Unsplash

* * * * *

Stop by to meet Dana at the upcoming Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin University. She will be at the Reformed Journal table signing her book, Thursday, April 11 from 2-3:15pm.

Dana’s book Enemies in the Orchard: A World War 2 Novel in Verse will be the discussion topic for the first gathering of the Reformed Journal Book Club, Thursday, April 18, 7:30 pm EDT. The Zoom event will be hosted by Mark Hiskes, but Dana will “be there.” Register to participate via Zoom. Participants must pre-register.

Dana VanderLugt

Dana VanderLugt lives in West Michigan with her husband, three sons, and spoiled golden retriever. She has an MFA from Spalding University and works as a literacy consultant. Her novel, Enemies in the Orchard: A World War 2 Novel in Verse, releases in September 2023.  Her work has also been published in Longridge Review, Ruminate, and Relief: A Journal of Art & Faith. She can be found at and on Twitter @danavanderlugt.


  • RZ says:

    Fascinating! We do play mind games with ourselves. Perhaps the best evidence we have for universal sin is not filthy-rags rebellion but rather profound skepticism toward the limits of God’s grace. Any doctrine that good has got to have a slippery slope in it somewhere.

  • Keith Mannes says:

    Wow. This is so good. Thank you!

  • Diane Dykgraaf says:

    Thought provoking. God’s grace and love is unlimited, our minds are small – yet we try to make it all fit.

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    Thank you,
    The easy and likely right response to unlimited vacation is boundaries create freedom. When I walk down the aisle in the grocery store and stair at an “unlimited jars” of pasta sauce, I’m paralyzed over which is best, have I tried this one, how do I choose, and then say, “We’re not having Italian this week.” There is so much intimidation with unlimited, so much difficulty and lack of freedom.
    But then grace, and love and mercy … Maybe it’s limited? Probably not … but how do you make sense of it. If I simply say, “I don’t get it,” is that enough? Am I supposed to “get it,” or am I supposed to simply enter it and let it wash over me.
    I don’t get it, but thanks

    • Kathy says:

      Rodney – the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, says Rao’s is her favorite brand of jarred pasta sauce. I stopped obsessing and testing, and took that angst off my list. While I now have it in my pantry, I have yet to test it, but I have stopped spending so much time in that section of the grocery store!

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