"What I Did on My Summer Vacation"

Some of the best advice from Jesuits on human relationships comes in earthy ways. When John O’Malley was a Jesuit novice, an older priest told him three things to remember when living in community [think of marriages, families, businesses, schools and churches]: “First, you’re not God. Second, this isn’t heaven. Third, don’t be a jackass.” Had I followed those guidelines earlier, I could have saved myself years of self-induced heartache.

James Martin, S.J. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life


         I’ve been away from the church on vacation for almost three solid weeks. If you can find a way to take such a large hunk of time off, I highly recommend it. Three weeks without having to set the alarm or run back and forth to church for meetings was good for the body, good for the mind, and good for the soul.

                The picture I’ve included was snapped one evening when we were in Lake George, New York. The picture captures what I am most grateful for about vacation times, however long or short they may be. If you can see through the grainy image, you can make out my family: Leslie, sitting in the chair, Miles roasting a marshmallow, and Sam, standing tall in the background. Other members of Leslie’s side of our family sit around the fire too.

            We never roast marshmallows, not one other day this year have we sat by a fire and made S’mores. Our busy lives don’t give us a free evening together very often. Or, if we’re at home and we are together, we’re probably doing something else, either together or by ourselves.

            The picture records a precious moment of time in my life. My vacation gave me some rich moments when I could listen to and talk to my wife and each of my sons. Many years ago when our boys were very young, Leslie and I spent a week together, just the two of us. During that trip to Charleston, South Carolina, Leslie and I had some of the most significant conversations of our marriage. I related that observation to a friend of mine who said to me that married couples need time away in order to talk that way. You can’t always do that at home.

            I came across the advice from James Martin this week. His three rules for community are especially applicable to family vacations: You’re not God. This isn’t heaven. Don’t be a jackass. There are no perfect marriages and no perfect families. Thus, if you are committed to following those rules, you’ll increase the likelihood of everyone having a decent time when your family is away.  

            I feel good. I’m tan and rested and very happy to return to the work I love here at Thompson Church. Times away also make me a better pastor and less of a jackass