Author's Note: This post was originally written a few months ago, but thought it was appropriate since I am currently on vacation. It's a good reminder that Jesus is the one who will give me the sweetest rest, which will help me enjoy our vacation even more!
If you looked at my browsing history recently, you would quickly see a repeated pattern. Royalcaribbean.com, carnival.com, disneycruises.com, expedia.com... the list goes on. “When can I get away?” We all dream for some sort of escape, and my guess is, if we all are honest, many of us often wander down the trail of the deep desire for a vacation. And not just any vacation. But the one that tops all other vacations.
At the end of 2014, Heather and I went on a cruise that I looked forward to for a long time. I was especially excited because it was on the largest cruise ship ever built, Royal Caribbean's “Allure of the Seas.” And it was amazing. The food was excellent, the entertainment was top-notch, and the ship itself was mesmorizing. I was amazed that a massive ship could hold so much. It was so impressive that it had it's own take on New York's Central Park, with live plant life and butterflies buzzing in the open center of the ship! With trees planted in front of you and store-fronts on either side, it was easy to forget that you were sailing on a vessel in the middle of the ocean!
Since then, I've gone through waves of wanting to go back on that boat, or another just like it. And not a casual, “it'd be fun to do that again.” Rather, a deep, gripping desire to drop everything and go. I want to experience the wonder again. The freedom to just explore. And the freedom to not have to worry about anything, sit on a lounge chair, and read and think and soak in the sun. I just want to escape.
And yet, while being on the seas can be a good thing (barring running into any icebergs!), this deep desire within me is actually a cry for help. There is something in me that feels this need to escape whatever I don't want to be in at this moment. And while God calls us to be in certain places in certain seasons, I'm struggling to be content. A few of these are:
I don't like being confined to a specific time: I love my job. I love ministry. But I often want to do it on my time-table and my terms. But school is in session at specific times, and God has called me to minister at college campuses. In my right mind, I wouldn't trade it for the world. But my sinful desire longs to trade eternal impact in for a lowly week at sea.
I believe the lie that my kids are a hinderance: I love my kids. I love getting to parent them. But they place restrictions on Heather and I. We can't just leave at the drop of a hat, and if we do want to leave just the two of us, we need to go through a lot of hoops to make sure they will be taken care of. It's not just whether we can find someone to watch them, it's also when they can watch them. Not only that, but in the season of having a newborn, it's nearly impossible to go anywhere without our little JJ for more than a few hours for the next few months. This is frustrating to me sometimes, because it's easy for me to believe that a vacation away from them would be better than spending time with them. I'm not believing that “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3)
I dislike increased responsibility: As I'm getting older, there are more things I'm responsible for, which means less and less “me” time. This can feel like a curse. But the scriptures say differently. In Matthew 25, when Jesus tells the parable of the talents, the reward for the faithful servants is MORE responsibility. I should rejoice in gaining more responsibility, not run away from it.
I fear I'm missing out: This is probably the biggest inward struggle, and is linked to the other three lies from above. “What if I'm missing out on the best thing!” Psalm 16 says, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” This is a helpful reminder that God is my true treasure. And if He has called me to be here and now, then this is what's best. And, through the cross of Christ, I will have a far better paradise to call home than any boat. Because of Christ, I will never miss out on the best thing.
So, I don't need the “perfect” vacation. I don't need to hope that I get to sail once more, and it doesn't need to be now. I can feel free to spend money on a different family vacation and enjoy my children, even if it feels like more work. I can find great joy in the different seasons of life, even when it's a season of hard work, or a season of rest.
Can you relate? Remember, the lines have fallen in pleasant places. And our greatest treasure is Christ. Even if you get time away from the kids. Even if you can take that ideal vacation. Even if you can have a reprieve from all your responsibilities. Jesus will always provide the sweetest rest, and when we trust in Him, He can make even our most fun activities that much more enjoyable, because we've made Jesus the ultimate person who brings ultimate joy.