There’s the day you come back from vacation. You know that day. It’s probably circled on the calendar. The same calendar that you kept marking off all those afternoons, the one you kept on your desk, and you watched the vacation approach. You never bothered to take the calendar with you on vacation, because, no one wants to be reminded of when it ends, when you have to pack up the suitcase, when you have to settle up with the hotel and make your way home. We never got to rest when we got home. There were bags to unpack and clothes to wash and life to do.
That’s where you want to be! Not at home or coming home or back at work. You want to stay in vacation mode! You want to be in the place that made you feel relaxed and happy and came equipped with calorie-free food (it is, right?), little fruity drinks with umbrellas, perfect weather and no responsibilities except the one to apply sunscreen. That’s the place.
Forget vacation, what about the retreat, or the camp or the convention? I remember coming home from an awesome ski trip. I wasn’t any good at skiing at first, because I didn’t do so well in the group lessons, but after that, when the really nice evangelist took time to teach me, I picked it up. That ski trip wasn’t about learning to ski for me, though. I had such an amazing spiritual experience. I felt like I got to a place where God and I were like this. >.< That tight. Every night, the youth group would meet together to worship and I got to a point by the end of the week that I was afraid to go home.
I was anxious about returning home, not because it meant the end of Spring Break and the beginning of the rest of the school year, but because coming home meant the influences of home. As soon as the plane landed in Houston, I knew that the world was going to claim me again. It wouldn’t be hours sitting in the presence of God, soaking up that delicious feeling of being steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. My steadfastness was going to loosen. Something was going to move me. I was to return to occasionally abounding in the world of the Lord.
Someone introduced me to an alternative Christian band named Skillet about this time. They had a song that was moderately popular when I was in high school that talked about being Locked in a Cage. The singers metaphorically ask God to keep them locked up, chained to a chair and to have their legs broken to keep them from seeking to escape. Why in the world would they want to do that? I did. I wanted God to perform a scene from Misery so I could stay in that perfect place forever. I wanted that on the ski trip. If God could have just disconnected my limbs or incarcerated me in a cave, I probably could have been content.
I wonder if that was how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego felt in the furnace. There they were, dancing around in the flames with the Lord, livin’ it up and probably didn’t want to come out. Daniel 3 said King Nebuchadnezzar went to the mouth of the blazing furnace and called the three condemned men to come out of the fire. They came out of there with nary a hair scorched and didn’t even smell of embers. King Nebuchadnezzar was awed at this and said, “Prase be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants…. for no other god can save in this way.” Then the King, who had ordered the three men be put to death, promoted them. If they had stayed in the fire, dancing around, no one would have smelled their hair or checked their feet for burns.
We can’t be locked in the cage. We can’t simply extend our spiritual retreat or rest in the God Spa. At some point, we have to come out of the fire to be a sign to the world. There are bags to unpack and life to do. God doesn’t just call us to live in him, we are called to live through him out in the world, not sequestered away from temptation. That ski trip changed my life. I came back with a terrible case of bronchitis that kept me coughing for months, but more than a lung passage inflammation, I came back with a desire to spend time in His presence, soaking up the Son and drinking in his promises.