by Father Mark Goldasich
Is it just my imagination, or has there been an upswing in cheerfulness around the Leaven office these past few days? It’s what you typically see when people are getting ready to go on vacation. The odd thing is, all the other staff members have already taken their summer vacations. I’m the only one who hasn’t, and I’m leaving right after this deadline.
Hey, wait a minute! You don’t suppose that the staff is happy because
I’m going on vacation? Now, I realize that I may have been a little snippy and demanding and nit-picky and impatient and loud and unreasonable these past few weeks (or months), but is that any reason to want me out of the office for a bit?
Seriously, I do need a break. I know that. And my staff needs a break from me. So why do I always put off taking a vacation? Some of it has to do with the journey. I love the destination, but dread the “getting there.” This year I knew I wanted to get away — a “stay-cation” wasn’t going to do it for me—but I didn’t want the hassle of air travel or a grueling long-distance drive.
That’s why I’m heading down to the Lake of the Ozarks . . . again. Parishioners ask me if I go down there to fish or water ski or just to get some sun and take a dip in the lake. Actually, the answer to all of those questions is “no.”
I go down there to…well, I’ll let this little story explain things.
A man went on a kayaking trip with his wife in the Apostle Islands in northern Wisconsin. One day the two of them were talking with their wilderness guide as they ate lunch on a remote beach. The husband mentioned how unusual it was to have no TV, no newspapers and no radio.
“In fact,” he said, “it’s going to be strange to return home and find out what’s happening in the real world.”
No one spoke for a few moments. Then the guide, without taking his
eyes from the horizon, commented, “I thought that’s what you came here for.” (Adapted from a story found in William J. Bausch’s “A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers.”)
What does the “real world” look like? We tend to think that the rushing around, the bloated calendars, the gulped-down fast food, the nonstop noise, the constant stimulation of information from the Internet, and our 24/7 availability are “normal.” We lose sight of the fact that quiet, slowness, savored meals, being unplugged, and space — both in nature and in our calendar — are truly what make life healthy, balanced, and holy. I head to the lake to read, to breathe deeply, to ponder, to nap, to walk, to reenter the real world — a world where I’m comfortable simply being, rather than just producing.
The excessive heat of the past week is a great image of how I’ve been feeling. It’s hard to breathe, to move or even to see clearly. Those of you who wear glasses can relate to this: The other day as I stepped out of a blessedly cool hearse to do a burial, my glasses fogged up. It was easily a minute or more before I could see again. Not taking a vacation break is something like that. Nonstop working clouds your vision.
Whenever I see only the problems in the world or only the difficult people or only the bad news, it’s time to seek out the real world. After all, I don’t want to end up like the poor guy in this story:
There was once a man whose passion was to go to heaven. Finally, he died and did go there. An angel took him by the hand and showed him the beautiful sights — the majestic mountains, lovely flowers, gorgeous sunsets, and little children playing in the streets.
The man said, “Isn’t heaven wonderful?”
But the angel replied, “This isn’t heaven; this is the world in which you lived, but which you never saw.” (Adapted from an entry in “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers” by Paul J. Wharton.)
I hope that everyone — especially those most burdened by worry, illness or problems — make time for a little vacation each day and perhaps a longer break each weekend. Listen for good news, spend time with close friends, notice the sights and sounds of nature, simply slow down — give God a chance to break into your life and show you what living in the real world is all about.