In part three of this series, C.J. continues explaining seven lessons he’s learned in leading his family on vacation. See the first part here and the second part here.
6. Intentionally Together
Family vacations are FAMILY vacations! Ultimately family vacations are about being together as a family, deepening our relationships with each other, conversing together, laughing together and encouraging each other. It’s about telling the same stories (embellished still more) and laughing even harder than the last time.
It’s about being together as a family. What a family does together is much more important than where a family goes together. It’s possible to invest some serious coin in a family vacation and not experience the deepening of relationships as a family. And it’s possible to have a low-budget vacation that is truly wealthy in what matters, developing close relationships as a family, and creating memories that make a difference, all for the glory of God.
So the purpose of a vacation transcends the location and transcends an individual child or the personal preference of a family member. A wise father prepares his children for a FAMILY vacation, and he adjusts everyone’s expectations accordingly prior to the vacation and monitors those expectations during the vacation. This protects the vacation from merely becoming a context where each member of the family is selfishly pursuing their preference apart from consideration for the family. Remember, it’s a FAMILY vacation, intended to build the family together and deepen the relationships between family members.
7. Gratefulness to God
Most importantly, fathers should use their vacations as an opportunity to express gratefulness to God. Family vacations are only possible because of the kindness and generosity of God.
Vacations are a gift from God. I want my family to perceive God’s kindness and generosity each day, and I want them to express their gratefulness to God each day. But in order for this to take place we need discerning hearts and eyes. So at the outset of a vacation I equip my family with theologically informed discernment, because it’s possible for us to be blessed by God but not perceptive of God or grateful to God. Fathers, it is our privilege and responsibility to model gratefulness to God for our family during vacations.
Last year at the beginning of our vacation, I read the following quote by C.S. Lewis to my family and took a few minutes to prepare them for our vacation and the appropriate response to God each day during our vacation. Lewis writes,
Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility … I have tried to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I meant something different … Gratitude exclaims, very properly, “How good of God to give me this.” Adoration says, “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations [I had to look this word up!] are like this!” One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun … If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline. But it is worth some labour.*
I love this quote. It’s perfect for vacations. The content of this quote will give you new eyes, so you and your family can discern the kindness and generosity of God during your vacation. The content of this quote will inspire you to appropriately and specifically express your gratefulness to God for the many gifts you receive from him on your vacation.
But don’t stop with gratefulness. Notice how Lewis distinguishes between thankfulness and adoration. I not only want my children to be grateful to God (“How good of God to give me this”), but ultimately I want them to be amazed by this God, amazed by “the quality of that Being” who has provided all these gifts, and adore him.
I informed my family of all we had planned for our vacation and informed them that we not only wanted to give thanks to God for each of these gifts, but to ponder the God who thought up and created these activities, and realize what this reveals about God so that we can appropriately adore him. So let your vacation be filled with the sounds of gratefulness but also moments of appropriate adoration. Let us realize what everything we experience reveals about God himself! You can apply this to each and every moment and activity on your vacation regardless of where you go or what you do. This quote and the content of this quote became the theme for our entire vacation last year. I pray it serves you similarly this year.
Fathers, I hope some of the lessons I have learned over the years and the mistakes I’ve made and sins I’ve committed on vacation somehow serve you and make a difference in your vacation experience. Before you this summer is a sweet opportunity from God to deepen relationships between family members and create memories that your children will never forget, memories that will outlive you.
You can rest when you get home.
* C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1963), 89–90. Quoted in John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God (Crossway, 2004), 18.