It is a relaxing stay. No televisions, no telephones, no radios, no news, most of which seems bad these days, no list of chores, no deadlines—no stress of any sort at all. Even cooking and cleaning up, because it must be done in a different way and by necessity involves fewer dishes, does not seem like work. We get up when we want to, usually not before there is enough light to see by, go to bed when we get tired of reading by dangling trouble light, hike when we want to, as far as we want to, play games, do crossword puzzles, talk, plan, look at birds and flowers, and then look them up in our wildlife book. It is peaceful, calming, and relaxing.
But getting there? Now that’s another story. It takes two full days to pack, using a three page list. There are arrangements to be made for the animals, the mail, bills that are due, and any duties for the church that need to be covered. We have to plan the route, which always goes through Atlanta, and after Atlanta, the hilly, winding roads that often leave me carsick.
We must find a church in some of the most “churchless” areas of the south, a task we usually take care of before we leave home. Once we arrive we must find a hotel that isn’t exorbitant so we can worship with our newfound brothers and sisters before heading up the mountain afterward. We have to plan what we need to take into the hotel room with us without having to unpack the whole pickup bed, and then what we will need for clothes changing afterward, and have them all easily accessible.
We must reach the park not long after checkout time so we can find a good spot—one with a level spot big enough to accommodate a 16 x 10 tent, with a fire ring placed not too close to the tent site, a good place for the firewood, which provides not only our heat but also the fuel for cooking all week, and more privacy than an RV needs due to the paper-thin tent walls. It must have shade, especially in the afternoon, and the table must be wooden if at all possible. Some of my equipment racks will not fasten to the extra thick cement picnic tables, and you cannot move cement tables if needed to fit everything into the site.
Then we have to set up, a process which takes two and a half to three hours. It has to be done before dark, and once it is done, we have to reload the back of the pickup with the items we will constantly need—the food boxes, the suitcases, the linen box, and the “book” box, which contains not only the books we will be reading that week, but the notebooks and Bibles we use for writing and studying, the crossword puzzles, the journal, the camera, the binoculars, and the Boggle game.
Finally, we get to sit down and start relaxing. Is it worth it? You bet it is. For nine days we experience the peace and beauty of God’s creation, and let it soothe our aching spirits.
All of that is somewhat like the life of a Christian. Some days are difficult. Some days are full of stress. Some days have lists of things that need to be done and not enough hours to do them. Some days are not bad—time spent with brethren and family, time preparing for things we know we will enjoy, but we are all looking forward to something better, no matter how good the days here sometimes are. We all want to reach the vacation spot, where the stress evaporates and eternal peace soothes our souls. But just as that camping trip would not be restful if we didn’t prepare for it properly, waiting till the last minute and tossing things willy-nilly into the pickup, hoping we got it all, neither will eternity.
Start preparing yourself today, remembering that this life is the journey, not the goal, and begin to look forward to the bliss that awaits a faithful child of God.
For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. There remains therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience. Heb 4:8-11.