My wife and I had not had a vacation in several years. We decided to take six days off last week and relax on the beaches of Mexico. We boarded a plane in Tulsa, heading toward our connecting flight in Dallas. Landing at DFW’s Terminal A and flying out of Terminal D, we had to hurry. Being the smarter one, my wife said, “Since this flight doesn’t include meals, let’s pick up some hamburgers to take along.” Even in our rush, we took time out to do as she suggested.
Our plane ended up waiting on the runway in a long line of others. A storm was in the area, and the pilot announced we would have to remain on the ground until it had passed. Soon, we pulled out our hamburgers-maybe a little too soon, because we sat there for the next three hours. If you have never sat on a runway for three hours in an airplane packed with families . . . don’t.
Late that night, we finally landed in Mexico, missing our dinner and part of our luggage. We had packed two small suitcases, and the airline lost the one that held our swimming attire, water shoes and towels. We spent the first morning of our vacation catching the bus to visit the local Wal-Mart. After purchasing the cheapest bathing suits available, along with a couple of other items, Cathy and I made it to the beach. It took the airline a few days to find our suitcase . . . in Miami.
Once we had our swimming gear back, we were able to proceed with our plans to go snorkeling off a nearby island. Saturday morning, we got up and caught the local bus again. This time, we traveled not to Wal-Mart, but to the port. There, we took a ferry to the island, renting a scooter to travel to a national park. At the park, we found just one lonely man at the entrance, repeating in broken English, “I don’t know what is wrong. The park is closed today.”
After months of planning, followed by delayed flights and lost luggage, we had arrived at our destination only to find it . . . closed. As we turned to leave, the gatekeeper pulled me aside, saying, “If you go down this gravel road and pay the guy there $4, he will let you swim in the same bay that would have cost you $25 here.”
Being the skeptical one, I wasn’t too sure about the $4, but we made our way down the gravel road anyway. To my amazement, not only was the price right, but it was a delightful place to snorkel. We saw school after school of the most incredibly colored fish and had a wonderful time. Now, this is the way a vacation should go!
At the close of the day, we got back on our rented scooter and started toward the ferry again. Suddenly, it began to rain. I can’t even imagine what we looked like: two soaking-wet Americans cruising down the blacktop road on a tiny scooter.
We enjoyed just one more day on the beach before our vacation ended. When we arrived at the airport in Mexico, the announcement came: our flight had been delayed. We would miss our connection in Dallas. Once again, our four-hour trip turned into an all-day adventure as we tried to find a flight that would allow us to return home.
As we boarded in Dallas for the final leg of our journey, the pilot announced that the plane had mechanical problems. Ninety minutes and one mechanic later, we were pushing away from the gate. Somehow, we made it back to Tulsa . . . with both pieces of luggage.
Families are a lot like vacations. Sometimes, everything goes exactly as planned. At other times, you lose all control and are left to ride out the storm. Did Cathy and I have a great time? You bet we did! The purpose of our trip was not having the right clothes or being in the right places, but enjoying one another-even in the midst of the storms. Our relationship was the true joy of the trip: we laughed, we cried, we shared every experience . . . together.
Isn’t that the way it ought to be with God? You find joy not in what He can do or fix for you, but in the relationship you have with Him. The apostles understood that. Even though they were imprisoned and beaten, Scripture says that, “They went away rejoicing” (Acts 5:41). They knew: joy doesn’t come from a particular destination or set of circumstances but from a personal relationship with the One who controls all.