Recently, my husband and I went with our six month old on a fabulous vacation in Europe. We toured Rome and London with day trips to Florence and Oxford. Going into the trip I had felt a bit guilty about traveling. I’ve been overseas before, but always on mission trips. This was just for fun. And it was a lot of money. Was this much money worth it? Shouldn’t we be giving this money, or at least saving it for the future? Now we didn’t go into debt for the trip, and we are giving and saving, so we weren’t being financially negligent. However, for a family who really values being able to give generously, this was outside of what seemed reasonable.
Through the planning process, I had a feeling that it would be worth it, but we had to actually go on the trip to see how. I was praying that God would reveal Himself to us through this trip. I knew we’d be seeing a lot of churches and religious art, because, well, Rome. But I wanted to see more than that. I wanted to see more of the character of God.
And you know what, we did. But not just through the art. We saw God’s hand in things fitting miraculously neatly into our budget (when does that ever happen when you’re traveling!), in a rigamarole with a broken stroller wheel, then another broken stroller wheel, in a bus showing up with perfect timing (as an answer to prayer!) when we were exhausted and hungry.
We tasted God’s goodness in gelato and pizza, Lebanese food, and meat pies (mostly gelato). In a quiet hour in the Sistine Chapel, before the crowds swell, we sat in awe of the Michelango’s work and thought on the Gospel. But deep underground, in St. Sebastian’s Catacombs we felt the history of this faith we hold when we saw a simple drawing on a tomb – drawn by a nameless saint millennia ago – of a person worshiping with arms lifted.
In Oxford, we walked on the storied Addison’s walk, where J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson helped C.S. Lewis to see that Christianity is the “true myth”. Along the way, we discussed the role of story in shaping culture and tossed around ideas for a novel that would shape culture in a good way. We explored and laughed and ate together for two whole weeks without growing tired of one another.
I also realized that I strongly desire to show my son the bigness and beauty of this world God has created and the smallness of his part in it. I want him to know that there are people, made in the image of God, with rich and full lives who are completely different than him. From different countries and who speak different languages. But they are deeply valuable because they have been made by God. I want him to understand that America is not the savior of the world. We’re not extraordinary. We’re just another country with it’s strengths and faults. I want him to learn – against everything our culture shouts at us – that white people are not the pinnacle of what it means to be human. We just lack melatonin. I want him to eat unfamiliar food and learn to make friends with someone who doesn’t speak any English.
Now that we’re home, I’m feeling God’s grace in the simplicity of being home, cooking meals, and even doing laundry, but I’m grateful we got to see his provision and kindness during our travels. However, our next trip will be to a cabin on a lake where there are no other people and we will only read and hike. And it won’t cost as much.