By Ward Shope
This year we’re going to Lake Chautauqua. I know people who are going to the great Northwest or to Europe, or to the Jersey shore, and I’d be glad to go to any one of those places. Debbie has convinced me we need to see the Viking settlement in Newfoundland in a year or two. But this year, we ended up renting an Airbnb place near Lake Chautauqua.
In order to qualify for a Shope vacation destination, an area must meet three criteria: there must be a miniature golf course nearby; there must be a movie theater in the vicinity; there must be a place to hike. We supply the rest of the entertainment, which usually includes a boatload of books and some games. Even when our kids were still with us, this was pretty much the baseline.
The positive thing about this is that everywhere except Antarctica or the Sahara desert qualifies. We do enjoy some good historical things and a museum or two, but they aren’t required – and almost every place has some sort of history. We enjoy just sitting and reading with the occasional distraction of the three aforementioned elements.
On vacation, life unwinds and deflates and becomes very simple. Is it going to rain today? Just wait until tomorrow. Days are interchangeable. There are no highfalutin’ goals. “Every day comes just as the Lord ordained it,” sings songwriter Chris Rice.
But that is also true of our non-vacation days. Every day comes as the Lord gives it. Instead I frequently don’t perceive the purpose of his gift. Ignoring it, I seek to reshape it. I’m a striver by nature. I fight life, trying to beat it into submission like a blacksmith applying heat and muscle to shape what I want out of my life. There are things that I want to achieve and accomplish; things I want to do; experiences I want to have – all of which are suspended on vacation – and all of which often bring frustration, discontent, and exhaustion in my non-vacation life.
It’s not that we aren’t called to strive as believers. Paul writes, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14) Sadly the prize Paul talks about and the prizes I pursue are different. Paul wants to know Christ. I want to control my destiny with or without Him. One leads to rest. The other to futility.
For that reason, vacation stands as a sign for me. Not every day can be vacation. But the way we receive it can benefit from its perspective. When the single focus on knowing Jesus and making him known becomes the rule in our lives, much of our striving ceases and everything can start to find its proper place as he defines it. Life is complicated and often challenging. Perceiving God’s grace in each day moves us toward him and toward the contentment in life he intends us to possess in Christ.