Monday, August 05, 2013

Travel bug vs. ultimate destination

In the wake of World Youth Day I found myself reminiscing about the good ol' days when I could just work, save up money, and travel all over the world.  I realized as well how incredibly fortunate I am to have been able to travel to as many places as I have.  Now that I'm a mom, I sometimes feel like the opportunities to travel and see the wonders of the world are slipping through my fingers never to return.  I have this fear that I'll never see the fantastic places that I drool over on Pinterest before I die. One of my friend's t-shirt's proclaims FOMO.  "Fear of missing out."  I totally have this fear.  I would love to go back to Paris, go see Barcelona and Greece, walk the camino, take Jon to Rome with me and spend more time in Assisi, go to the next World Youth Day in Poland, etc, etc, etc.  God created such a wonderful world full of beauty didn't he?

Two weeks ago I was privileged to give a talk at my parish about my travels in Calcutta.  While it was a pleasure to reminisce and impart the wisdom of Mother Teresa and my travel experiences and lessons to other parishoners, I found that one of the last "travel lessons" in my talk gave me pause.

The night before I left Calcutta I truly felt like I was going to die.  My poor asthmatic lungs were just giving way to the pollution and I literally gasped for breath the entire night.  If you don't believe me, ask Annie.  I spent the whole night having a minor near death experience and praying the Act of Contrition over and over until I think I passed out for a couple of hours.  I honestly thought I would die that night in that crazy, dingy, rooftop hostel room on Sudder Street.  I mention this experience because it was while praying the act of contrition over and over that I realized what was most important.  It was my relationship with Christ.   Priority #1!  I was praying the act of contrition because I was sorry for everything I had done wrong and I really, really, really, wanted to see Jesus on the flip side if I died.

What does this have to do with travel?

Well, I think that sometimes I forget about priorities.  Are you with me?  We all do this don't we?  While travel, material goods, excitement, and rich experiences are fun, they aren't the main goal.  They aren't our final destination.  So should we feel like we're missing out if we're concentrating on priority #1?

Priority #1 for me right now entails changing diapers, being a supportive wife, not complaining all the time, being nice to my children, trying to teach my children about God, trying to teach my kids the alphabet, making dinner, cleaning high chairs, doing laundry, wiping poop off bums, and everything else being a stay at home mom entails.

Priority #1's details are definitely not as exciting as swimming in the mediterranean sea or hiking in the mountains of Spain.  I have always known in my head that the "unforgettably exciting life experiences" shouldn't be made into an idol, but I suppose I never thought about what lies in heaven on a grand scale in comparison to them.  I never imagined that all the wonderful places on earth will pale in comparison to heaven and being in the presence of God.  I never imagined that I would still probably be able to see every place on earth while in heaven anyways.

This silly popular phrase "YOLO" keeps getting thrown around.  "You only live once!"  But really, if we have priority #1 in our sights, living once will mean living forever won't it?  So I guess what I'm getting at is, while it's fun and sometimes good to chase after excitement and rich experiences, don't let those experiences get in the way of priority #1.  Because ultimately, our relationship with Christ will get us the most unbelievable, all-inclusive, all expenses paid, never ending vacation we've ever had.  If we have priority #2 in order, we might even be able to take all our friends and family with us!

Won't it be amazing?


Jonathan said...

It's really interesting thinking about ultimate desires and where Earthly desires come from.

I used to think about only focusing on what I had to do and giving up the rest, which is good, but recently I've started to think about where the desire to see and learn and do things comes from. Why do people desire to travel, to see beautiful landscapes and churches, to read good books or travel to fantasy worlds in games, to create, to explore the stars, to have sex, to view indecent material, etc.? Our deepest desire is for God and the beauty of Heaven, and all of our other desires come from the need to get as close as is possible while on Earth.

To me, our desire to know comes from our desire to know God, the ultimate answer, and the desire is insatiable because it can never be fulfilled here. The desire to travel comes from the desire to know and also the desire to seek beauty, which is rooted in ultimate beauty, which is God. Recognizing these things helps me to focus on God when I feel like focusing on something else. What also helps is the realization that in the end it's no sacrifice to miss something while on Earth, because everything here pales in comparison to what is in Heaven. In the end there is nothing to miss here, and what is important is bringing as many people to Heaven with me as is possible.

These thoughts make it much easier for me to keep God and Heaven as the focus.

Jane said...

Yes! That is totally the only important goal in life, as well as helping others to get there along the way. I always dreamed of traveling the world, especially ancient places I'd studied and tropical paradises during the long northern winters. I also dreamed of having a little studio and producing artistic creations. I married my high school sweetheart and there began the greatest journey of my life. I chose marriage and children and raising a family, and found to my surprise that it required all of my gifts and talents and then some! We've never had resources to travel, but we've enjoyed exploring God's natural gifts and the art of creation with our family while camping. I don't regret any of it. I didn't miss out on anything important. I praise and thank God for my life, my parents, all those who influenced and taught me, my eyes, my ears, my nose, my husband and children - and now such amazing daughters-in-law and grandchildren! Most of all I thank Him for the gift of Faith in Him who is able to fill and exceed any hunger or longing. After all - He designed it all. What a desolation to traverse the whole world, see, feel, taste everything but miss Him! You are truly blessed to have this insight at your young age!