3 Vacation Reflections
A beautiful down syndrome little girl. A broken family. A lonely graveyard. One of the great things about vacations is the opportunity, away from the frenzied pace of everyday life, to step back and reflect on what really matters in life.
Here are three things on my heart I want to carry back home next week.
1. Unplug & enjoy now.
I’ve been able to take some extended bike rides along an old rail trail. During one of my rides I saw a father pulling his little down syndrome girl in a bike trailer. She was so into the moment – full, happy, satisfied. As I looked at her, drinking in the ride with her father, I was hit by this thought; People like her very well may enjoy more of life than anyone else. Free of distractions they are fully immersed in the moment. How often do I not enjoy the now because I’m on to what is next? How often do I fail to see the actual beauty around me because I’m artificially looking at something far away through technology? “Take time to smell the roses” is more than a tired old cliche, it is a prescription for enjoying God’s glory in the present in fresh new ways. One of the many things I appreciate about my wife is her ability to see the beauty and power of God in ways I can totally look over – from the shapes of clouds to the veins on a leaf to the first toothless grins of a newborn baby. I want to be more like her. When I return from vacation I want to continue a rhythm of unplugging and enjoying the now.
2. A zero tolerance policy for 3rd party negative talk.
My parents have been divorced for several years (one is remarried). Out of pain, one tends to speak negatively about the other to the children and grandchildren. I’ve been struck by how infecting this is to relationships. It is exactly like the writer of Hebrews says. Bitterness, unchecked at the cross, defiles many. Negative talk about others is not healthy, it is hurtful and harmful. It is not life giving, it is zombifying to the soul. I can see that in the brokenness of my biological family but how often do I tolerate that in my eternal spiritual family? How often do I give my ear to a person talking negatively about another? How often do I talk negatively about a person to another? Convicting! I’m adopting a zero tolerance policy about listening to or sharing negative talk about another person, even if what is said is true, unless there is a clear pastoral reason to do so. Yes, we are broken people. But we have experienced grace! This grace gives us the spiritual cajones to talk directly to a person, not about that person. And other times it just motivates us to eat it and shut up. I’ll flash you the zero tolerance sign if necessary. Do me a favor & do the same for me.
3. Embrace not being known so that He can be known.
I love graveyards because they are smelling salts to the allusion that life is about us. It is so easy to get drunk with the delusion that if I am recognized for what I do (whatever my vocation), then I will be happy. Of course we “sanctify” this obsession for self glory with the rationale, I’ll have a bigger impact for the kingdom. Nick Nye, in his blogpost The Pastor’s Platform, deflates that lie with this to the jugular quote. “I want to build a bigger platform, so I can tell more people about Jesus…Yeah, and I want to eat more pizza, so I can win a middle-weight UFC fight.” On my bike rides I have come across several old graveyards. As I walked through the cemeteries I saw grave markers from the 1600s and 1700s, barely legible and covered with moss. Hundred and hundreds of springs, summers, falls, and winters have come and gone. Nobody now knows who they were and what they did. Probably no one a century after they died remembered them. And for the very rare exceptions of people who were famous and are remembered, among the billions who have lived and died, their grave is still a grave, just like everyone else’s. Cemeteries shout out to us in their deathly silence, embrace not being known so that He can be known! Jesus told us no man can serve two masters. Which one will it be for me? For you? The biggest high we get when we are recognized for accomplishing something will be nothing compared to the feeling we will have when we step into His presence knowing we sought to make Him known. He is the center of Revelation 7:9-10, not us! Cemeteries remind us to live that way now. CT Studd (what a name!) put it this way, “Only one life ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Trusting He who is the Resurrection and the Life frees us to lose ourselves so that He might be known.
I’m really thankful to have a few more days of vacation but am looking forward to being back home in the great city of Detroit next week. May I not forget these reflections.