by Julia Sterne
October 3, 2017
5 min read
Alastair and I just spent a ridiculous amount of time away from Vancouver on vacation. For me, it was time I felt was much needed but not really well deserved. I feel like my life is pretty average, with some typical stresses and upsets, average working hours, and kind of normal-ish family time. I don’t get a lot of sleep with a one year old and I can get anxious about silly things, but I didn’t think I in any way deserved such a long getaway.
But I took it.
And I loved it.
And I miss it.
We have only been back a few days, and I am already looking forward to the next escape from everyday life. I am longing for quiet, restful days with my loved ones with not much to do but eat, sleep and play. “Let’s retire,” I joke with Alastair (but I am not really joking). He smiles and agrees.
This longing makes me feel a bit ashamed and maybe even guilty. I feel like I should enjoy working hard and living in a busy city. I should find pleasure in pushing myself to the limit for success, or money, or love, or community, or whatever. I feel a bit weak for wanting to have holiday time all the time.
I think our culture tells us we can have it all. Be busy. Be successful. Play hard. Rest well. Care for loved ones. Deepen community ties. But I have to be honest – I cannot balance all of these things. I get overwhelmed and just want an out.
Is there something wrong with me that I can’t do it all?
As I have been reflecting on that question, I am beginning to realize a couple things. I don’t think there is much wrong with me. I think life is hard. Genesis describes work as toil. Ecclesiastes talks of everything in this world as being burdensome. Even Jesus in a completely understandable plea asks God to “take this cup away.” It is a hard, burdensome, overwhelming life.
This life is not sustainable. We are all toiling away. We get stressed and overwhelmed. We are all aging and breaking down. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Even a month of time off does not solve these problems.
All a month of time off seemed to do was tempt me with something unattainable: a life of leisure and security. This is not to be ungrateful in any way! I am so, so, so amazed and thankful to have had such a wonderful time away with my family. But man, I do so wish it could be more lasting. Maybe eternal.
My thirsty soul longs for the living waters on heaven’s shores. I am giving my life to the hope of that reality. And Jesus left it all behind.
I think there is that same desire in everyone. We have that longing for an eternal life of peace, freedom, love, rest and play, for what we call heaven. A good vacation (like mine) is a taste of heaven. A drop of water on a parched land. Honey on the lips of a child. It does not quench the fire, but awakens it. Like a greedy beggar, I ask for more.
I am not sure that this is a helpful reality to live in. That I was not made for this world. That I cannot sustain the things I long for here and now. It is a bit painful actually. I cannot even imagine what it was like for Jesus. He lived in heaven, he experienced the perfect “holiday” for who knows how long before he came down here for us. His longing must have been infinitely more than what I am currently experiencing.
He knew what it was like to be in his Father’s house. He knew what unending rest, true joy and complete freedom were. He knew love better than I have ever known. And he left. He descended to this place. A place of hardship, weakness, sin, and mortality.
It is unreal to me, that he left that realm. My thirsty soul longs for the living waters on heaven’s shores. I am giving my life to the hope of that reality. And Jesus left it all behind.
He faced the worst that this world has to offer – no home, no wife or children of his own – working hard for no money, no holidays, then betrayal, mockery, torture, and capital punishment. For us.
I can only imagine the depth of his longing for his vacation, his extended break, his retirement, his returning home.
His longing validates my longing, this ache. It helps me see that it’s okay to hope for something more and to feel it tug at my heart. I am so thankful for tastes of heaven here in this mortal world. I am thankful that Jesus was willing to temporarily give it all up and bring those sips of refreshing water to us, the thirsty on earth. Even more, I am thankful he has invited me (and you) back home with him to live in God’s perfect rest and joy.
I do not deserve eternity. I have done nothing so grand as to earn a permanent vacation or this thing we call heaven. It is pure grace. But the desire for it is good and right. Longing for a break, or “retirement,” or any other sort of getaway, is part of who we are as humans. It is not shameful or weak. It is recognizing that God has so much more to offer us than this world has to offer us. It is good to work hard, of course. And it is good to take our little breaks here and there. But it is also good to recognize that life is hard and short and not the fullness of our deepest longings. It is good to look forward in hope and wait for the eternal holiday promised to us in Christ.