How to make or break your vacation

Having just gotten back from a week away with my family in San Francisco and Santa Cruz, I wanted to offer an observation about vacations. They can very easily become the most fun, entertaining, and spiritually alienating days of the year.

Vacations start long before we walk out the front door, pulling our packed bags behind us. We plan for vacations, anticipate them, and prepare for them. We picture what we will do. We save money to spend in ways (and in volumes) far out of the ordinary. This is all highly dangerous activity, and here's why. People have been taking holidays for centuries. What makes us different in America is that we are incredibly wealthy by global and historical standards, and we are highly trained consumers. When we go into "holiday mode," our consumerism gets switched into high gear. This is "our time," and we plan to do what we want with our money.

And that is the spiritual trap that awaits us when we go on vacation -- or enter into leisure time of any kind, for that matter. The essence of sin is independence from God. It's doing what we want because we believe we know better. Independence from God breeds all kinds of selfishness. I noticed on our recent vacation that there were interactions I had with family members that were unnecessarily tense because I was trying to control the moment and make it into what I felt it should be. I put my plan for fun and leisure in the highest place. In those moments, God was not on my radar screen.

The correction to this spiritual mistake is pretty obvious: keep Jesus in the place of lordship, even over our vacations and leisure time. That means continuing to practice devotions while on vacation -- maybe even beefing them up. (I made it a point to have extended devotions on our recent vacation, and that made a huge difference. I figured a break from work didn't mean a break from God. I actually had some incredibly rich times with him.) It means inviting him into your vacation, running your plans by him and surrendering them to his will. It might even mean changing some of your plans. It most certainly means making the effort to connect with God and love others, even in the time of the year when you most want to make it about you and your plans.


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