Grace, Faith, and Fun on a Family Vacation

grace

Where do we find faith and witness Christ? My journey and the grace of God have allowed me to discover the most beautiful theology and the most delightful gems of faith in the everyday events of my life. The people and circumstances around me help to shape the story that so wonderfully shapes me.

Recently my family and I made a short trip to Amish Country to attend a performance of the “Jesus” play at the Sight & Sound Theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was truly an inspiring event, an epic drama of the life and mission of our Savior, lovingly portrayed by a faithful cast of professional actors dedicated to sharing the message of Christ with their audience. In this setting, with those I loved the most around me, I was truly drawn to a place where those incredible life lessons could present themselves to my soul.

In the World, Not Of the World

Before going to the play, we spent the day in Lancaster, learning about the Amish. I must confess that I had a bit of a misunderstanding about their beliefs. It seemed hypocritical to me that the Amish refuse to have outside electrical wires from the power grid into their homes, but have propane-powered refrigerators and washing machines. This was because I thought the Amish simply viewed all modern technology as bad. What I discovered was that the real issue was not the technology, but what too much contact with the world might bring into the community: vanity, pride, and a lust for wealth, position, and power.

While I disagree with the Amish people’s particular interpretation of the Scriptures — for we are called to go into the world to share the Good News of Christ — I did find myself re-evaluating my own views about my possessions and my place in the world. My family often teases me about my love for flashlights and multi-tools, cool tech gadgets, and hiking gear, and they have a point. I can sometimes get so caught up in my stuff that I forget that I am dependent on God for my next breath.

As well, I often become so obsessed with politics, religion, social trends, and the general divisions and moral decay around me that I begin to think that the solution to life’s problems lies in this world rather than the next. A quiet walk among the Amish reminded me that God must always be the center of my life. He alone has provided salvation, sacraments, and daily signs of his grace to continually lead us home to him.

Miniature Horses, Continental Breakfasts, and Sibling Silliness

We visited a number of attractions in Lancaster during our vacation, including a miniature horse farm, a farmer’s market, and a few antique stores. It was a blessing to see my 24-year-old son, my 20-year-old daughter, and my 15-year-old daughter filled with joy as they fed alfalfa pellets to tiny horses, alpacas, and goats. It was a bit of a contest to see how many free samples of foods they could find in the market before we sat down to lunch. And I was fascinated to watch my children gaze in wonder at simple treasures from the past in the antique shops we visited. It was like seeing them as small children all over again, and it reminded me of how blessed I am to have such a beautiful family.

Each morning of vacation we enjoyed a Continental breakfast at the hotel—nothing special, but always a fun experience. The first morning, I wanted to get there early to beat the crowds, but was overruled by the rest of my sleepy family and begrudgingly waited with them until the last hour to go down to eat. My frustration was in stark contrast to the open spirits of my children, who were happy to take their breakfasts and sit in the lobby of the hotel as they talked and laughed together. And not only breakfast, but the buffet dinners we shared became experiences of delight and laughter as my children sampled new foods, shared buffet-line side dishes with each other, and went back for seconds on desserts.

The grace in my children’s hearts that comes shining through in their actions shows me that they know how to walk in the Kingdom of God. Each moment is a memory to hold, each simple pleasure a pearl of immeasurable value. They take it all in like toddlers discovering the wonders of the world for the first time, even though we have done these same things year after year. They know that the greatest treasure lies in the bond they share as siblings and as believers in Christ. Even the little hiccups and family feuds that crop up now and then only serve to make them stronger and bring them closer together as they work through those little vacation bumps along the way.

A Performance Like No Other

The “Jesus” play was everything we had hoped it would be and so much more. The special effects brought the fishing boats to the shores of Galilee and into the storm, where Jesus walked upon the water and rescued Peter from his faltering faith. The temple towered to the heavens; the demoniac and the townspeople were transformed. Rough men became disciplined disciples; sinners and the sick were healed. Angels visited the world from the skies above, and the crucifixion was made oh so real before our eyes. There were music and laughter, confrontation and conflict, and a joyful Jesus, perfect in his passion and willingness to be the suffering Savior who brought salvation to the world.

I suspect the authors of the play were very much influenced by the book of Hebrews, for they presented Jesus as fully human in the agony he experienced, and fully divine in his perfect obedience to the Father’s will. Over and over, we saw him as the fulfillment of prophecy, the perfect lamb and high priest, who rescued the souls of men as he willingly gave up his life to pay the ultimate price for the sins of man.

I was struck with how the creators of the play interpreted the other Bible characters as well. Mary was portrayed as the Mother-Disciple, faithfully standing strong as she followed her Son all the way to the cross. Peter, James, and John went from floundering fishermen to faithful friends who returned to the Master and went out as witnesses to the weary world. All of the women represented were impassioned followers who broke free of social norms to walk the narrow way with the Savior through it all. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were fiery Pharisees who were willing to put aside their position and prestige in order to see their Lord as the fulfillment of prophecy and the perfect once-for-all sacrifice for men’s sins.

I found myself tearing up time after time as the Gospels came to life before my eyes. Such beautiful storytelling stirred up in my heart my own story of salvation working itself out in my life. It connected deeply to the artist in me and the words of faith that God places within my soul that burn until they spill out onto the page. Christ’s story, as well as the story of each life that has been touched by him, are precious treasures meant to be shared with joy, passion, and deep conviction as the Spirit manifests his grace in the telling. It makes holy our relationships and our journeys as together we walk the road of salvation to find the Savior waiting on the other side.

Constantly, Pleasantly Surprised by Grace

These family vacations continue to remind me that grace is found in the ordinary and extraordinary occurrences that come our way, as long as we look for Christ and respond like children to his grace that often slips into our lives unnoticed. I am amazed that after all this time, my children still love to be together, building memories and taking sibling silliness to greater levels each year. I am happy too, that they still love their father who sometimes forgets to let go and let God reveal himself in everything from alfalfa-fed horses and all-you-can-eat buffets to floating angels and uncontrollable storms in a grand theater.

I will remember this vacation as something special, as my older daughter will be away overseas for the next sixteen months serving the poor for the sake of the Gospel. My son too is searching out his place in the world as a writer. And my younger daughter continues to throw herself into dancing, studies, and sports as she blossoms into the extraordinary young woman God has called her to be. I know that, even though our family members may grow apart in distance, we will never be apart in the memories we have built and the love we share, all because of the love Christ has shown to us. I am forever grateful to the lessons learned from our loving God who continues to surprise me with blessings and grace-filled revelations as I open my eyes and ears to the miracles that present themselves to me in those wonderful everyday events of my life.

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