Posted by: Mike Willoughby | August 24, 2011

How do you say Love (Part 3)

What popped in your mind when you read the words, “family vacation” just now?  Do you remember hazy sun-splashed days at the beach?  Perhaps camping trips, hiking in the woods or snow skiing adventures come to mind.  Are your family vacations memories filled with idyllic Father Knows Best or Brady Bunch scenes or perhaps more of the Chevy Chase variety?  Regardless of whether your memories are romantic or comic, I hope family vacations were a part of your childhood experience and that you continue to benefit from the unique power of the family vacation today.

Kristal and I both have rich childhood family vacation experiences that helped shaped us and have guided our concepts of what it means to be a family.  Our parents spoke the love language of quality time to us as children by investing in us through the various family vacations we experienced.  We have made the same commitment to our children in our own unique way.  Now as we start to think about the next phase of life which will hopefully include the blessing of grandchildren at the appropriate time, we have recommitted ourselves to be very intentional about extending the blessings of family vacation to our next generation.

Studies have conclusively shown the impact of family vacations not only on the health of individual families but also on the health of the society as a whole.  Family bonds are strengthened through the vacation experience and stronger families are naturally good for society.  Vacations also frequently expose family members to different people, new cultural experiences, exciting culinary adventures and a smorgasbord of different ways of life.  This exposure and exploration is good for the vacationer and also for those who come into contact with vacationing families.  One could make a case that no single innovation has stirred the American melting pot more than the Interstate system begun in the 50s and largely completed in the 70s.  Because of the Interstate system, millions of families ventured out in their family trucksters to explore this great country and strengthen family bonds.  In the process, I believe we became a more unified society with a better sense of what it means to be Americans because of this new cross-country traveling.  As family vacations become more global in scope I think we also get a better sense of what it means to be a human.  Thank you, President Eisenhower and American Airlines!

In addition to secular studies pointing to the value of the family vacation, I also believe the Bible supports the concept.  There are many examples where Jesus took his trusted disciple “family” and retreated to a secluded spot (frequently a beach or a Galilean cruise) to rest, relax, refresh and work on those family bonds.  These quality time love language retreats frequently came packaged with ample “teaching moments” spawned by the disciples’ steps and missteps.  Which brings me to my last point – I run the risk of overly romanticized the family vacation if I don’t point out the obvious.  How many of you haven’t at least once been on a family vacation that didn’t have a melt-down moment, a near disaster or a complete wash-out?  Although Chevy Chase took this reality to hilarious extremes in the Vacation Movie Series, we all have to admit to our own Chevy Chase family vacation moments.  Even these melt-down moments are good for families believe it or not!  In addition to providing great dinner time story-telling opportunities for future holidays, these moments are great teaching moments that help strengthen family bonds and serve to bring a context of reality to the family that is healthy for both parents and kids.

In the way of example, let me refer you to a family vacation story from the Bible.  Check out Luke 2:41-51:

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.   When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he was saying to them.  Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.  And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

OK, so every parent who has lost a child in the airport, Six Flags, Disney World or at the beach can immediately sympathize with Joseph and Mary.  I also have to believe Luke slimmed down the record of Mary’s response when she found young Jesus.  Surely this Jewish mother had more words, exclamation points and probably tears of relief to express to her formerly missing son!  Kristal and I have lost kids at all these places and more – none of our sons got off with “Son, why have you treated us like this?  Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

However, even though Mary and Joseph were traumatized and Jesus was chastened, notice the end result from this teaching moment.  Mom had something to treasure in her heart (probably after a cooling off period) and I’m sure this family vacation experience was part of the round-table discussion at holidays for years to come in Joseph’s house.  More importantly, the son grew physically, emotionally and spiritually and this event was part of that growth.  Isn’t that our ultimate goal as families – the spiritual, emotional and physical growth of our children when they are in our care?

Family vacations are one of the best ways for parents to speak the Quality Time Love language to their children.  I encourage you to extend the family vacation tradition with your kids or start a new tradition if family vacations are not part of your heritage.  You won’t regret your investment in your family and you’ll have great stories to tell at Thanksgiving!

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Copyright © 2011 Michael Willoughby. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to author and/or owner with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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