Linda and I just returned late on Tuesday night from a seven night stay at an all inclusive resort in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. I had saved up money to take Linda there for her birthday. (35th or something like that . . .)
We were both very ready for a vacation from the weather and from the stresses and strains of church ministry. And this vacation met both of those needs. With highs in the low eighties, palm trees, snorkeling, deck chairs, 24-7 service, iguanas everywhere to remind us we are not in Michigan, crystal clear pools, Mayan cultural experiences, crazy good food, entertainment, and long walks on the beach just holding hands, it was a truly opulent experience.
And yet, one thing stuck out to Linda and I more and more throughout the week. There was absolutely nothing in that environment that was moving us toward Christ. To continue with Christ at an all-inclusive in the Riviera Maya (or anywhere) the Christian will be swimming upstream. We did not stay at a party resort. As a matter of fact the average age of people at the poolside were considerably older than us. The nightly entertainment was not risqué or inappropriate. I am not here speaking of overt opposition to faith.
What I picked up on early in the week was my own heart’s desire to be served! And as the week progressed, I found I could get used to having someone stop in every 20 minutes to offer me a cold refreshment, or more guacamole, or ANOTHER filet mignon. And it was especially nice to have them reply when I said, “thank you!” with, “Pleasure”. (The only English word that some of the staff ever uttered to me.)
How does a pastor get away from his work? How does a Christian vacation in a Christian way? Please hear me carefully, I am NOT suggesting it is a sin for a Christian to go to an all inclusive resort. But I am suggesting that we ought never to take a vacation from God!
Linda and I had a blast in Mexico. But we also constantly had conversations to put things in perspective. We praised God at the beauty of his creation! We looked for signs of faith in those around us. I explained the gospel to our shuttle driver in my broken Spanish during the hour long drive to our resort. (Amazing conversation in which he was asking me why I believe that Christianity is true over other religions!)
We saw things that made us sad. We saw people who allowed free alcohol to make a fool of them. I listened to a conversation in the seat behind me that verified that the two conversing were not married to each other but were indeed married to others. During our orientation we were asked if we were married and when we replied “yes”, the host asked “to each other?” When we looked shocked he said, “come on! This is 2014!”
Many of these things verified for us that as Christians we experience the glory of the world in a mixed way. We see glimpses of intense glory so much more than the drunk guy passed out in the deck chair at 11:30 am. We were able to run free in the surf, delight in our creator, and wonder at His amazing creation! I would contend that anyone can truly be amazed by the creation, but only those who know the creator can take that delight to the next level by recognizing what it was created FOR!
But we also spent a week in Mexico being reminded that this world is not all there is. Indeed for some staying at our resort, that was the closest to “heaven” they will be, and an all inclusive resort CANNOT stand up under the weight of the eternal hope of mankind! It will disappoint!
But for us, trying to keep our vacation in perspective, helped keep it more enjoyable. It is not the end all of existence, but it was a truly enjoyable experience that was another opportunity for us to honor God and rejoice in Him!
I think in the end, I am just seeking to pass along what God taught me on this vacation. There is a genuine danger in the world to take a break from Him. It is possible for the good things of this world to pose a threat to our relationship with God when they are held up as ultimate.
Our hearts long for something more that this world cannot offer. And yet this world is full of glimpses of the glory of God. Let’s be sure that as we rejoice and delight in the enjoyable things of this world, that we do not neglect to thank the creator of these good things, even on vacation!