I need a vacation.
Commons words in our days. Many of us are probably thinking those words right now, and if we weren't - well, now that I mention it.... It does sound nice. A simple getaway. A day, two days, maybe a week away from these walls, from these schedules, from these routines, from these stresses. A day, two days, maybe a week closer to the beach, the mountains, the canyons.
Pull away from your daydreams for a minute. Close your Travelocity window. Think about what vacation really means.
It's getting away. We even call it that - a getaway. It is vacating our daily grind and taking on a new adventure. Think about the fantasies you have about what vacation is, what it does for you, where it takes you. Think about how you imagine yourself once you get there. Are you...breathing?
That's it for me. It's getting out of here, getting to a place where for a minute, I feel like I can just breathe. Where I'm not staring at the same computer, the same walls, the same list of chores, the same commute, the same everything for a little bit and this crushing weight of mundanity lifts off of me and there, in the expanse, surrounded by the bounty of something entirely other and entirely breathtaking, I can suddenly breathe again.
It's basic psychology, really. It's the fight or flight response. We fight as long as we can, push ourselves through, get done what needs to be done, and take on a new day until we just can't stand it any more and we've worked, done, and lived our lives to the point that we have to get out of here for awhile or we're going to snap...so we book a flight and get away from all this for awhile.
But vacation ends, time draws us back to this place we were so desperate to escape, this rut, this routine. Rarely is our vacation long enough; rarely does it refresh us to walk back into the way things daily grind against us and it's just this again. Sometimes, we get a new energy, but it seldom lasts as we realize that here we are again. Yup. Here we are.
God has been working rest into my heart; I've been sharing a part of this journey. And in all my flesh, there is this place in me that nods, smiles, and dreams of a distant place. A getaway. You know, You're right, Lord. I could really use a vacation. I smile a little, and the day seems lighter when I can imagine myself actually breathing again. Fresh, clean air. Somewhere not here. Somewhere...out there. Just me and Him. Road trip! You're a genius, Lord. Vacation sounds nice. Ahhhh.....
If I go, I'm never coming back. If I could ever breathe that air, I wouldn't want to breathe this stuff any more.
Then He just gently sort of whispers, "Aren't you tired of running away?"
And He's right. I don't think I'm alone in this, but I've spent a lot of my life running away. Away from pain. From fear. From questions. Away from love. From grace. From mercy. I'm thankfully at the point where when I let my spirit hit the road, I'm practically dragging God along with me - I've got to get away from here, Lord; I can't handle this place. But You've got to come with me because I'm not losing you again. Like somehow, it's more holy if I convince God to go, too. More holy-sounding, maybe. But not holy. And not rest.
Yet He's asking me to take this journey, to embark on this quest for rest. He's solidly leading me away from this place, and in my flesh, I turned that invitation into what I knew - another chance to run away. To vacate. Under the guise of vacation and the daydreams of fresh air. When I came to my senses, I came back to Him. And I simply ask, Where am I supposed to go?
You want to run, He says. Try running toward something. Try running for something. Try running to something.
How about an altar-cation?
It's going to be contrary and confrontational. You're going to get into a mess. You're going to encounter these places in yourself that have been so resistant to this, and you'll have to face that square on. But if you want to run, if you want to get away from here - and child, you've got to get out of here - won't you come running to My throne? Ask Me to help you breathe again...trust Me to be your rest. Daydream not about the mountains, but about the Hill. Think not about the canyons, but My cross. Because here, and only here, is where you'll find what you're looking for.
When we choose an altar-cation instead of a vacation, when we run to Him instead of away from here, we open ourselves to this opportunity for a new life. Not a new locale. The scenery doesn't have to change, though we can often see it with new eyes. What happens is that He breathes into us, and we can breathe again. The mundanity lifts; the heaviness of here seems lighter as where we are, what we do, and even who we see in the mirror is invigorated with new energy and a sense of purpose. We develop this place inside of us, this new scene, this new set on which we let our hearts live and suddenly, when we close our eyes and dream of anywhere but here, what we see is there.
There, where we can breathe again. There, where we feel refreshed. There, where here takes on new meaning by the simple refocusing of our heart and our spirit. There, where some place else meets us somehow here and changes everything. There, where we don't have to run away. But there, where we find ourselves running to.
There, where if we go, we're never coming back again. After breathing that air, it just wouldn't do to breathe this stuff any more.
There, not a cozy bed and breakfast in the mountains but the base of the cross on a hill.
As tempting as a vacation sounds right about now, I think what I really need is an altar-cation. So the next time you catch me running, it won't be away from here; I'll be running to His throne. (Of course, there's nothing in the fine print that says His throne can't be somewhere near a beach.)