Read Mathew 25:1-13.

One of the things I miss about pre-COVID days is vacating. A chance to get away from normal life, to be absorbed in creation and in the many little tasks that are a part of camping, to spend time apart, with loved ones. Hiking in the mountains. Enjoying the views. Crossing a stream by hopping from rock to rock. Finding a high meadow. Setting up a tent. Building a campfire. Telling stories around the fire. The pizza sandwiches grilled over open flames, the hot dogs and baked beans, the s’mores—a veritable banquet.

I think it’s the time away, the natural beauty, the being pulled out of your routines and yourself that are most attractive. But of course the experience is best when shared with loved ones.

These trips take planning and preparation and discipline. Select a destination many months in advance. Adjust schedules. Plan activities. Acquire equipment. Keep schedules clear. Pack the car. Set off. And then, deal with the inconveniences, the discomforts, the long periods of barren highway, the squabbles. Sometimes the highway seems like an endless desert. We read a book to each other and imagine other times, other places.

But if you don’t get all the preparation done at the right time, the vacation falls through and the opportunity is lost.

When can we again leave for vacation? When will we feast around the campfire? When will we forget the world and be captivated in the moment and enjoy each other’s company in the beauty all around us?

An interesting fact: in this time when I can’t take a vacation, my desire for a vacation grows. My longing for a vacation leads me to plan. To prepare. To remember past vacations. In retrospect, it seems to me that this period of longing and preparation is a necessary part of the eventual enjoyment. You won’t get there without it.

I will do what I can: choose a destination. Think about potential camping spots and hikes. Things to see and to do. Let myself—encourage myself—to desire, to plan, to grow in hope and expectation. Let that almost painful hope and desire grow to the point where, like a gigantic sneeze, they forcibly expel other plans, other desires.

Sometimes I can’t even plan. I can’t even attempt to plan. It’s too painful. My mind recoils. But if I relax and am patient, maybe I can be better prepared. Or at least bear the pain while longing grows.

Categories: Meditation

Harry Plantinga

Harry Plantinga is a professor of computer science at Calvin University and the director of and