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Vacation revelation

My heart is full.

My family and I recently returned from an extended vacation to one of the most beautiful places on the east coast of the United States: Acadia National Park in Maine.

I would love to proclaim that our family journey was completely harmonic and that everything fell perfectly in line with our plans, but the unfortunate truth is that we more often than not resembled the Griswold family instead of the Walton’s. Anytime you experience 1,800 miles and about 26 hours of combined driving, two blown trailer tires, countless bathroom stops from tiny bladders, incompetent GPS directions and summer construction zones, the trip becomes rapidly testing.

However, an unexpectedly pleasant surprise occurred on our vacation as well. To put it in a nutshell – my family bonded with each other in ways that we hadn’t before.

We played games and went exploring together. My children invested in one another’s lives. We shared about our hopes and dreams. We laughed together – heartily and often! We sacrificed personal comfort for the sake of new experiences and achievement as a group.

And when I asked the question as to why this happened, I can only come up with one answer: we removed ourselves from the things that so easily distract us.

We had no electricity at our campground and no cell phone service. We didn’t allow the use of televisions, electronic tablets or devices on a regular basis. We encouraged genuine interaction even when it wasn’t a popular option.

Which begs the question: What if the devices that were made to enhance and simplify our lives were in fact doing exactly the opposite? Wouldn’t we demand that they either change to serve that purpose or get rid of them altogether?

It is my belief and experience that many of these electronic devices are not necessarily enhancing our lives in the ways we hoped. In fact, they often detract from it through excess busyness and constant checking of our messages and social accounts.

These devices don’t seem to serve to connect us to one another nearly as great as they serve to isolate us from each other – and statistics confirm this. And they rarely draw us closer to God, but farther from him.

Admittedly, none of my children yet have their own cellular phones. I don’t say it with pride or a sense of satisfaction that I am right and others are wrong; if anything I say it with a sense of frugality (or cheapness) in that I don’t want to have to pay for a phone for my children before they are old enough to afford one themselves. However, on our vacation, this decision was cemented in my mind as the right choice for my family.

You see, after about three days, we began truly communicating with one another in ways that had never happened. My children genuinely invested in one another’s lives through conversation, support and emotions. They encouraged one another. They built each other up. They fought some, but they fought as a unit rowing in the same direction instead of every man for himself. But most of all, they listened. They listened to stories about one another’s lives. They listened to the highs and lows of their siblings. And, believe it or not, they began to listen to the requests of their parents.

So, I will preach at you no longer and simply finish with a list of questions that I would challenge you to seriously evaluate in your lives.

How busy is your life and why?

Is your busyness serving to draw you into God’s presence or away from Him?

When was the last time you were quiet before God and took the time to listen to Him?

Are you willing to sacrifice your perceived comfort in exchange for God’s voice and presence to be made more clearly known in your life?

Scripture states that Jesus often/regularly withdrew to lonely places and prayed. By himself. With only God. On a regular basis. Do you follow this example? What if God is waiting for you to eliminate the distractions and simply spend time in His presence? From a father’s point of view, I can attest that I cannot find anything more gratifying than this.

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Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Rev. Scott Garman, pastor of Cedar Heights Brethren in Christ Church in Mill Hall.

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