Vacations come in many shapes and sizes.
Some come wrapped in the shiny foil of tourism. I’ve been on those before. I remember the year my dad took us on an 1100 mile trek of state parks in the mid-west. More vaguely in my mind’s eye I can still see the trip to Southern California when I was seven. Rex Trailer was still alive. Sgt. Billy signed my hat.
Then there are those vacations we take to do some good. Many people in my church take vacation time to invest in kids lives during our annual VBS. One year I took vacation to counsel summer camp. One of the kids in my group ate his deodorant on a dare from another kid and I ended up with a blinding migraine. All such foibles aside sacrifices of personal time usually create the most powerful life memories.
Of course there is also the vacation which is about seeing friends and loved ones. My son Joe has now embarked on such a vacation. If you have ever taken a tour around the family and friends amusement park you know how hard it is to decide which ride to get in line for. It does seem that there is never enough time to visit them all doesn’t it?
Joe is here for five days. In that time he has a “to see” list longer than Michael Phelp’s arms: Parents, sisters, two grandmothers, a grandfather, a great-grandmother, and about forty-five friends.
It turned out to be a good weekend to come home. Sunday was the fourth of July. Our church hosted a family picnic we called FAMJAM. This was my last day of work and it proved to be a good opportunity for Joe to see a lot of people he never would have made it to otherwise. It’s always nice to get three hundred of your closest friends and family together in one place to see a visiting loved one (It’s even better when you don’t have to foot the bill). I never thought of it in quite this way before but church is a great way to keep a family connected with its greater community. Our job of getting Joe to see his friends would have been much harder without the church. It really does take a village sometimes.
Since FAMJAM Joe has been in and out. Sleep-overs and late night card games have consumed his time (don’t worry he doesn’t play for money). We’ve gotten some good time in with him too. Yesterday Tina and I took Joe, our daughter Amanda, and my in-laws Doug and Dale out mini-golfing. Of course it was the hottest day of the year. So we got the added benefit of losing about fifty pounds of collective water weight!
But the request Joe made that touched my heart the most was that he wanted to go to a movie with me alone. I have never considered myself the greatest father. I read yesterday that there is a saying among PK’s (preachers kids).
“You haven’t truly entered the ministry until you have neglected your family.”
That is a sad commentary on the state of ministry in our world. But it is one that has fit me at different times in my life. I have always feared that my failings in this area would cause my children to reject me when they were older. Yet somehow God has seen fit to make my children like me as adults. I’m just glad to have made Joe’s list never mind have a prominent place on it.
Now that I am thinking of it I don’t think my fear is one relegated to father’s in ministry. I remember my own dad (who was most decidedly not a cleric) telling me he felt the song which best fit him as a father was “Cat’s In the Cradle”.
“When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll have
a good time then son. You know we’ll
have a good time then!”
I think there is something to the thing about us being our own worst critics. This vacation of Joe’s has taught me that. Maybe I didn’t do the best I could have in hindsight but I did the best I could running forward from the starting line not knowing exactly where I was going.
We all start life thinking we know everything and realizing only later that we know nothing. When the starting gun is fired and the race flag waves we just start running not really knowing even how far away the finish line is.
Like my son on this vacation we make our “to do” lists and hope against hope that we will get to do it all. I wonder how many have actually finished everything on their lists. Like my son waiting for vacation to start many of us are waiting to get through some little phase or other so that life can “start” and we can really begin doing the things we dream of. Maybe the problem isn’t always our failure as human beings (though I won’t discount that it this does weigh into our issues). Maybe the problem is our list is set with too many expectations which only God can see are unrealistic. After all we don’t really know what life holds for us. We can’t see what’s around the corner, that thing that lies in wait which we will have to give up something on our list in order to contend with.
I know I need to do some blogging on the other end of the spectrum here to balance out my view, but maybe just maybe there is something to be said about not planning out every detail of life. Maybe there is something to be said for just setting our caps to the wind and listening for the voice of God that says, “And Go!” even though we don’t know just where.
This is a lesson I am learning on vacation.