I gleaned a bit of wisdom recently from one of those “Take This Quiz” articles stamped in the midst of a check-out line tabloid.  The quiz wanted me to guess when the greatest benefit of a vacation was realized.  Before?  During?  Immediately after?

Having recently returned from a vacation, I can tell you the answer is not immediately after.  Vacations are splendid.  Returning from a vacation is not!  What I found interesting, though, is that according to the psychologist interviewed in the article, the greatest benefit is seen not during vacation, but up to two months before the vacation.  The vacation itself may be good, but for a real pick-me-up, nothing beats the thought of some upcoming R&R. 

This seems to suggest we should all bankroll our vacation funds and spend our time just thinking about vacation instead.  Unfortunately, I suspect we could only fool ourselves for so long before we caught on.  The real solution, of course, lies not in thinking about some transient travel, but in placing our focus on the one source of R&R that will never experience a post-vacation slump.  “Come to me,” Jesus says.  “All you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). Jesus is the ultimate vacation.  Getting, there, however, is sometimes a challenge.

I have a quote lightly paraphrased from Rick Warren pasted to the wall above my keyboard at work.  “Do not let what is most important be displaced by what is urgent.”  The words are a lesson – a warning – that is much easier to read than to do.  In fact, the stacks on my desk have gotten so high it has obliterated my view. 

And so tonight, when I feel like I’ve been spun in a twister and shaken like a dust rag, I try to heed the warning.  I don’t know what else to do, so I look for Jesus.  And I find him, getting into a boat (Matthew 8:23).  Along with his disciples, I follow Him, and we begin to sail across a vast lake.  Suddenly, a furious storm comes upon us.  Giant waves are sweeping over the boat.  The boat is filling with water.  I and the other disciples begin to bail.  The water is icy; the wind is whipping.  For every bit we manage to bail, twice that amount is pouring in.  We work with an urgency to match the storm.  As it twists us, we push back with the paddles.  As it douses us, we slop the water back over the side.  As it beats the sides of the boat, we brace against it.  It is relentless.  We are losing!

Yes, that summarizes my recent days pretty well.  And I’m sure your days are not so different than mine.  There are good ones.  There are bad ones.  There are just plain crazy ones.  There are days that go so slow we think they will never end, and days that speed by in twos and threes so fast we can’t believe they’re over.  If we’re not careful, whole chunks of time fly by, and we accomplish all that was urgent, but miss all that was important.  How do you stop urgently bailing long enough to focus on what is important?  How can you consider bailing “not important” when the boat is being swamped? 

I don’t know.  But tonight I have this image from the Word of God (Matthew 8:23-27).  Of Jesus, asleep in the boat in the midst of the storm.  Of Jesus, rebuking the winds and the waves.  Of Jesus, chastising his disciples: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Perhaps the storm is an illusion.  Perhaps the boat will not swamp if we pause in our frantic bailing to see if there is something more important that we should be doing.  Perhaps it is time to stop bailing and have a chat with Jesus.  Perhaps it is time for a real vacation. 

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  Matthew 8:25-26

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