From The Blog

Mission Monthly – September 2004

“I, personally, have sought with my poor mind the answer to the question, ‘What is life?’ and have found none. Still, reading over and over again in the Holy Scripture, I have found Christ saying: ‘I am the Life’. So that’s all I know”

Mother Gavrilia, The Ascetic of Love

I love our family vacations! This year I even took a nap on the day before we were to come home. Our days were filled with activities, and though the weather wasn’t “ideal” the cool temperatures kept the flies and mosquitoes away and the occasional rain helped to keep the dust down. Even our annual “Spy vs. Spy” act with the raccoons was not as taxing this year. It was a complete time of (re)creation.

During this time of rest I often found myself often considering questions about life and its meaning. I suppose living virtually outdoors for a week does provide a context for this sort of questioning. At first glance one can see without any trouble how we take indoor plumbing and conditioned water entirely for granted. Convenient food preparation and a level sleeping surface could be two other “luxuries” that we might not fully appreciate. While these themes could provide enough food for thought, this year I noticed something even more striking while observing the basic rhythm of life in the camp grounds. People who camp really seem to live by the setting and rising of the sun. Sure there were lanterns and campfires to illumine the evening landscape, but other than the occasional sound of human voices things got pretty quiet within an hour or so after darkness set in. A couple of times I think I may have even gone to bed around ten o’clock, while staying up later on other nights almost seemed forced. There was no artificial light to turn on, no television to watch, no phone calls to make, no e-mails to send, only basic needs to attend to and what appeared to be an enthusiastic desire of most campers to start their new day with the most basic of concepts: a good nights sleep.

There was one other strain of thought that touched me deeply while I was on “vacation” this summer— I didn’t seem to be getting any “rest” from the convictions of deeper thoughts. Although we lived in a tent, swam, biked, hiked, enjoyed camp fires, played games, went sight-seeing, read, cooked and ate under the open sky (and I even played golf a couple of times), there was no rest from thinking about life and its meaning. I wasn’t seeking rest from this but when someone says their going on vacation to “get away from it all,” doesn’t that mean getting away from it ALL? I am not sure if, while on vacation, I have ever experienced such a strong, lingering vigilance. I don’t think this means that I wasn’t vigilant before, I was just more aware of it this time.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Co. 13:11). I wonder if this vacation “vigilance” is part of growing up. I wonder if resting the body and mind is different than resting the soul. I believe we can say with absolute certainty that we never take a vacation from our life in Christ; and yet because of our weakness there is still a need for complete rest. I can only come to one conclusion: while vacations may help us rest our bodies and minds, only our life in Christ can bring rest to our souls. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (St. Matthew 11:28-29). Any one of us would be “missing the mark” if we ever tried to find meaning for our lives in anything other than in Christ. I am thankful for the rest God gives my body tired by labor. I am thankful for the yoke of Christ which brings rest to my soul.