Last week, I went on vacation. My husband took time off from work, we packed our bags, and we hopped on a train to Venice. Yes, Venice, Italy. We are currently living just outside of Naples, Italy and have access to Europe by car, by train, and by shorts trips on a plane. With this ability to vacation easily on weekends and on weeks off of work, I have begun to ask myself . . . “where is God on vacation?”
Many people go to the glorious cathedrals throughout Italy and expect to feel closer to God by viewing the majesty of these architectural masterpieces. I went, I beheld, and yet I felt no closer to God by seeing these magnificent works of the hands of humanity. The architects wanted to draw the eye of humans up to the heavens and up to God, but their efforts left me feeling empty. I saw wondrous places, only I didn’t find God through facades and elaborate cathedral interiors.
During my trip, I was able to see so many works of art by many prominent Venetian artists, Bellini, Titian, and Canova to name a few. They painted Mary, they painted Jesus, and they painted Saint after Saint into spectacular paintings. They spent hours, days, weeks, months, and years layering paint on wood and canvases to allow others to see Jesus on the cross, to see his humanity, and to be brought closer to the Biblical times by viewing these works of art. I went, I beheld, and yet I felt no closer to God by seeing these elaborate paintings that represented the wonderful talent of gifted artists. Seeing each Pietà, Crocifissione, Trasfigurazione, and Ascensione made me appreciate the skill given by God to these artists, but I didn’t feel God’s presence by viewing the art.
I wasn’t the only one on vacation this past week; there were tourists everywhere. Whole cruise ships dropped off crowds of people from every nationality. People flew in, people took trains (like us), and people drove their cars to spend time in Venice. So many people around, but I didn’t meet God through these people. They were all busy enjoying their vacations, eating wonderful Italian food, and viewing all the architectural marvels and the artistry of Venice. God didn’t join me through the people.
Not sure about you, but I consume large amounts of food while on vacation. I do not travel to new places to diet! I ate fresh Italian pizzas, Venetian beef liver, wonderful seafood dishes, and enjoyed a delicious meal of goose, plums, apples, and polenta. While I may have felt a small epiphany while consuming delicious bites of mussel and clam, I did not encounter God while eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In fact, shamefully, I don’t recall praying over any of my meals. I left God out of my meals and I didn’t find God through enjoyment of food.
While this wasn’t particularly a relaxing vacation since most of our time was spent walking from historical places to museums to shops to restaurants and back to our hotel for a wink of sleep, still we were able to slip in a bit of relaxation here and there. We walked slowly down the stone paths beside the canals in Murano. We sat at a café in Piazza San Marco. We read books while our son had an afternoon nap. While I walked, while I sat, while I read, I didn’t encounter God. By relaxing and sitting still for a while, I didn’t just bump into my Savior. I enjoyed relaxing, but where was God on my vacation?
God wasn’t in the architecture even though it was intended to bring the spectators eye to look up to God. God wasn’t in the art though piece after piece depicted Jesus, his mother, and events of the Bible. God wasn’t in the people and tourists though surely some of them shared my faith in Jesus. God wasn’t in the food though it was heavenly. God wasn’t even in the relaxing times that brought me stillness and calmed my heart for a moment. I know that God is with me always, so why didn’t I feel Him, see Him, encounter Him on my vacation?
My patient and loving Savior was waiting for me to turn my eyes to Him, to reach out for Him, to intentionally meet with Him. I turned my eyes to architecture and art. I reached out for Murano glass and food. I met with new people, salespeople, and wait staff. I thought about God when I saw the spectacular cathedrals like you think about someone who you left at home. I thought about God when I drank in the artwork, but I only thought of Him intellectually and contemplatively. I was pleased that God created such amazing foods for me to eat, but I didn’t even thank Him for it.
I didn’t find God on vacation, because I didn’t take the time to invite Him on the trip!
I left Him at home in my mind.
Why do we take vacations that include taking a vacation from God?
God tells us in Hebrews 13:5b, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God will never leave us. We leave Him and He waits for us. Maybe you are planning your vacation, maybe you just took your vacation, or maybe you are on vacation, decide now whether you want to invite God to stay with you on vacation. Maybe you are currently on vacation from God in your life, all you have to do is turn your eyes to Him, to reach out for Him, and to intentionally meet with Him. How often we forget to “pack” the One of eternal importance. Don’t forget to take God with you on vacation this summer.
Tips for Vacationing WITH God
1. Bring your Bible: This reminds you that God is a priority even while you take your time off.
2. Plan devotions: Whether you will be missing church on Sunday or simply want to spend time with God into your vacation, bring along a devotional, read through a Psalm a day, or spend some time in the Word.
3. Invite God on vacation: Spend time in prayer to God before you leave on vacation. Express your desire to “bring” Him on your vacation and encounter Him as you spend time away from it all (all except Him).
4. Decide on ways to bring your eyes toward God, reach out for God, and encounter God during your trip: Make a list of activities that can be integrated into your vacation that will draw you to God intentionally.
5. Accept God’s grace: Be with God. Accept his grace fully. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm,” Ephesians 6:13. I think vacationing is the time to stand firm in what God has already done in us. Put on and keep on God’s armor, standing firm during your vacation this summer.
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