NOTE: Your idea of a vacation may differ from mine, but for the sake of this post we will use a camping trip to a State Park as our example.
Are Vacation’s Selfish?
The weather is great, life is crazy, and it’s time for a vacation. However, vacations can tend to seem very selfish with a focus on temporal pleasures, with lots of anticipated relaxation, fun activities, and of course eating. We think we deserve a break from regular life, and so we take a few days to get away with family and friends to have a good time.
Vacations can be very good things! In fact, your next vacation may be a tremendous opportunity to allow God to showcase Himself in you.
The Silent Witness
Let’s step back to normal life reality first. Christians are often poor at verbally witnessing for Jesus in our day to day lives. When we think of those doing missionary work away from home, we often feel left out. We often resolve to be a silent witness, allowing our actions and lifestyles to be the means of showing Jesus to the world. However, those of us who have taken mission trips know the strange difference it makes to get away from our normal life. It seems easier to talk about Jesus in another place away from life’s responsibilities to people who you have no previous information about us and possibly will never see us again when we leave. (If that’s something you have experienced, I’d be glad to hear your feedback for a later discussion.) My point is, however, inconsistent that fact is in your life, why not take advantage of that little extra freedom you gain from it on your next vacation.
Rest, Renewal, & Worship
Enjoy God’s Good Creation
Explore God’s creation and display good stewardship by exercising your body on a hike, bike ride, kayak trip, or swimming. When you play disc golf by the lake, take the time to feel the breeze and see the beauty around you. When your cousins flip your kayak, thank God for good friends and laughter. Praise God for his creative genius as you watch the otters playing, the bald eagles soaring, the trout swimming, the raccoons scavenging, the chipmunks scampering, and the skunks spraying, and the bears charging. Praising God for creating such beauty as your hike brings you to an overlook. Thank God for your fishing buddies who are crazy enough to get early in the morning to try to catch some trout with you.
The Blessing of Children
As the children play in the dirt, ride in the stroller, or splash in the creek, let us praise God for the gift of their lives! Praise God for the blessing it is for them to grow up in a Christian family. Praise Him for how happy they are to explore God’s creation. Praise God for the incredible privilege and responsibility that by raising them and caring for them, even when they are difficult and you are tired and stressed out, that they have a chance to one day spend eternity in the presence of God.
God intentionally created times of rest for the Children of Israel for a reason. The body needs to relax and be restored. Time is needed to refocus and recharge our spiritual life as well. As you read a good book, thank God that he has raised up writers who seek to glorify God. Thank God for a mind to learn more about the Bible and about God. As you sit at the campfire roasting hamburgers or making mountain pies, soak up the delicious food only after giving a thought of God’s goodness. Start a theological discussion around the campfire, edifying one another. Take time to fellowship with friends and family, and most importantly with God.
Worship God for the Majesty of the Heavens
Take some time to realize how dark the sky is. Stare at the sky in the peace of the late night and be in awe of God. Think about the countless stars, how God knows them by name, how far off they are, how exact the heavens are, and how precise the earth was situated in the universe. Be mindful of quiet hour regulations, but don’t hold back a shout of praise or a song of worship.
Remember not to allow this worship to morph into a self-satisfaction. In other words, don’t be selfish about God. He may be a personal savior, but He wants to too. Too often we just want the peace and joy that comes from knowing God and allowing His Spirit to dwell in our lives. This is easy to think. As you stargaze in the dark mountains and think about the awesome Creator of the universe, you may, and should, think how amazing it is that this same God can be your personal friend. But please don’t allow it to stop there. God came for the whole world. This leads to perhaps the most important thing to remember while on your vacation — be an example to those watching you.
The Not-So-Silent Witness
- Make the crazy loud campers or the quiet retired couple in the campsite next door wonder why you never make coarse jokes, why you don’t cuss and swear when the saw pinches, and why you look joyful even though it has been raining all day.
- Allow them to observe and admire the close family ties you evidence as you relate to each. Show them the rare sight of you as parents loving your children and actually playing with them.
- Confuse your co-workers by telling them you like to go to state parks in Pennsylvania where alcohol is prohibited instead of Maryland where it is allowed and normal.
- Be friendly to people fishing along the creek that you pass in your kayaks or who walk by your campsite with their dog (even if they out of the pet zone.)
- Those little general stores or ice cream shops that have those “TIPS” jars on the countertop…do that. Not that you are trying to be seen of man, but rather that your witness that you established during the ordering and sale will carry over and they will see that you are selfless and really care. They may want to figure out why you are different and be easy to talk to.
- The cashier at the general store probably makes less money than you and is not quite as excited to be there as you are.
- Be diligent to allow God’s Holy Spirit to distinguish your joy from general happiness for being there. An overly happy time can hurt those who are struggling with life.
- When asked where you are from, tell them, but be sure to engage with them about their life. Don’t be selfish.
- Ask questions sincerely — don’t just flippantly say “how about you,” but try something more engaging. If you do they will give you real answers.
- Ask people about their background, where they are from, about their family, or if they grew up there.
- Be open and express your love for spending time with your wonderful wife and children. This is will stand out, and perhaps God will use it to start a conversation about Him.
- On Sunday, don’t skip church or be reclusive — attend a church service at the campground or nearby. This makes a tremendous impact when they see you sharing and fellowshipping with them.
- Be familiar with the rules of the campground and keep them. The rangers will appreciate it.
- Be sure your children under 12 wear helmets when riding a bike. (recently my family was commended for actually doing this, and they camp host was really impressed.)
- Pay the extra car parking if needed. Don’t just hope you get away with it or that you will pay “if they ask.
Warnings and Summary
A lot of life, not just vacation, is about your attitude. As you go on vacation, take this warning: be mindful to not focus on finding that “me” time, but on God and those around you. The warning does not come when activities include worship of God, but when they take the place of worship of God. A warning comes when we continually and gradually begin to replace worship with self-satisfaction. Self-satisfaction creates God dissatisfaction. As you enjoy kayaking, fellowshipping around campfires, swimming, biking, hiking, and stargazing, remember that spiritual fulfillment comes from knowing God.
In summary, go ahead and enjoy a vacation. Keep in mind that rest and refreshment is a concept that God created. Remember to include God in everything, and I can assure you that you will find fulfillment and perfect refreshment.