Hello FriendsLast Tuesday my MOM took a little stroll through one of our favorite spots. I was not with her. I was still recovering from our adventure the Saturday before. As much as MOM and I would like to think I am super dog, the fact is I am 14 and a half and it takes me a couple of days to feel 100% again. And that is OK. And besides if you know me at all you know I do not like being out in the rain, and it was raining on MOM’s walk without me. So the photo I will share with you are of her on a mountain side.
Do you know who is the worst vacationers in the world? The peeps in the US. US citizens are #1 in NOT taking vacation.
In the US, if you work for a large corporation for twenty-five YEARS, you finally earn twenty-five days of vacation per year. But in 2012, the average “vacation” length for an employee was 4.3 days. For workers who have earned that 25 days on average only 12 days were taken.
And what do 21st century Americans DO on their tiny, short-sheeted vacations? They bring cell phones, lap-tops, and homework with them. They continue to “check in” with the office, co-workers, and employees, for at least an hour a day. That’s right. During hard-earned “vacation,” they never really vacated the office. They are never truly “unplugged.” They never truly have “down time.” I think that is crazy. People need downtime. Sabbath time. Vacation time.
Jesus took “vacations.” His “vacations” were not to some scenic getaways or luxurious resorts. Instead Jesus took his “vacations” by going to “deserted places”, out-of-the-way locations, far-away destinations, intentionally distant from the pressing crowds that pursued him and the paparazzi types that even back then asserted themselves into his personal space each and every day.
In Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus set out for some vacation time. He had set out to find some solace and some solitude. Some time to be alone and at one with his Father. But it was not to be. Instead Jesus found that his “fans” had followed him. And instead of having an “evening off,” Jesus seized a window of opportunity to show a great crowd of people the awesome power of God.
Instead of an evening of “walking the garden with God,” which is a Genesis way of talking about prayer, Jesus spent his evening feeding a crowd of five thousand. But his healing was just another form of “walking the garden with God.”
Throughout his preaching life Jesus regularly trooped out beyond the bounds of “civilization” and sought out the singularity of a private conversation with his Father. Jesus’ inner craving was not for Pizza Hut or Taco Bell. Jesus craved intimate, one-on-one prayer-time with God. Walking the garden with God was Jesus’ “vacation.” But when he was walking anywhere, it was still a form of walking the garden with God. And Jesus did a lot of walking.
Jesus is the best example we can follow for our “vacation” selves. Jesus periodically, and very intentionally, came “apart” from his everyday life, so that he might not come “apart” from his everyday commitments. Jesus was intentional about taking time to take a time out. One of the reasons he was not legalistic about the Sabbath as a day was because he found Sabbath time every time. When he told his disciples to “consider the lilies of the field” (Luke 12:27), he was declaring to his disciples “Sabbath Time-Out” — let’s pause to pay attention to God’s creativity.
When Jesus took “a vacation,” it was his attempt to reconnect in prayer and recharge in spirit more completely with his Father. Every time Jesus “took off” it was in order to “take off” more powerfully when he returned. Jesus’ “vacations were not about being “different” from his usual self. Jesus’ “vacations” were about him embracing fully his identity and holding dear his most significant self.
In Matthew 14:13-21 the crowds follow him. They beat him to his “deserted place,” so it’s now a congested place, not deserted place. Instead of privacy Jesus has five thousand needy, hungry, hurting followers who are waiting for him when he arrives at his vacation spot. And Jesus could not ignore either the spiritual or physical needs of those who sought him out and sought his care.
Jesus stood before a crowd of 5000 and declared to his disciples that five cheap loaves of bread and two stinky little fish would do. He had no qualms, no doubts. His private prayer “vacation” was taken over completely by his life’s “vocation.” And as Jesus prayed over those paltry offerings of fish and bread, his “vocation” fulfilled his “vacation.” Jesus “answered his cell phone” on his “vacation” because his mission, his meaning, and his moments, were all one.
The feeding of the five thousand can be interpreted two ways. First, Jesus tries to get away, everyone finds him, he works all day healing, and then has to miraculously provide food for everyone come evening. Some “vacation.”
But there is another way of interpreting this story — as an illustration of Jesus’ life, which always maintained a harmony between what he was doing and who he was. Jesus knew the answer to both parts of that equation. He knew what he was on earth to do; he knew the exacting demands of his earthly ministry. But he also knew his unique divine identity, and on the strength of that identity he integrated with integrity everything that happened into his mission. Jesus lived a life where his vocation and his vacation were one. We can too.
In one “Peanuts” cartoon little Lucy says to her baby brother, Linus, “I’ll tell you something I’ve never told anyone before. Do you see that hill over there? Someday I’m going over that hill and find the answer to my dreams. Someday I’m going over that hill and find happiness and fulfillment. For me, all the answers to my life lie beyond those clouds and over the grassy sides of those hills.”
Linus removes his thumb from his mouth, points toward the hill and says, “Perhaps there’s another little kid on the other side of the hill who is looking this way and thinks that all the answers lie on this side of the hill.” Lucy thinks that one over for a long moment, then turns toward the hill and screams, “Forget it, kid!!!”
We are looking for help on the other side of the hill. We think if we can only get away from our side of the hill and get over the mountain to the other side of the hill . . . everything will be better.
But the answers are not over the hill; our problems are not solved by escaping our side of the hill. There is nothing wrong with going over the hill and getting away. But the answers are found when we do not escape but engage; when our vocation and vacation become one.
The answers are on the hill: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills; from whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord” (Psalm 121). The answers are on the hill: “On a hill far away, stood an old Rugged Cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.”
And because of that hill, God is with you whether you’re in the valley, or on the mountain top. Whether you’re in the desert, at the seashore, or on the mountains. Whether you’re in a cubicle at work or a car going home. Because of that hill, your vocation and your vacation can be one.