By Amanda Markel
I’m something of a control freak. If it can be planned, scheduled, or organized, I will attempt to do so. This was never more evident than this summer, when I was planning our first real family vacation. I tried to think of everything. Where would we stay? What activities would we do, and at what times? How could I maximize our all too brief time to see the most important things, do the most fun things, and make sure there was something special for each member of our family to experience?
And then there were other concerns. How can we make this trip for the least amount of money (no small question for a family of seven!)? How will we handle eating (which we all have to do), while staying on something of a budget? Could I somehow make an extra hour or two in each day appear?
I really thought I had it all covered. I found a hotel several months ahead of time, in a good neighborhood, with great reviews, at a decent rate. I bought tickets in advance for the activities that required them. I wrote down every address of every place we wanted to see, and organized them in the most efficient way possible. I even figured out how we could arrange meals on the road that would be inexpensive, and that everyone would like! I felt like superwoman!
Even with all my planning, however, I was also daily, and even hourly in the days leading up to our trip, begging God to make it all going according to plan. I admit, there was even some bargaining. I was obsessed with nothing going wrong, partly because I’m a worrier by nature, and partly because, as our first real family vacation, I was really hung up on the idea that it had to be perfect.
You know how they say “Man plans, God laughs?”…
We set out for our drive through the mountains of Tennessee, the children excited both about the trip in general, and their first real opportunity to see real mountains. We were all in high spirits…until our car started shaking, and making a horrid noise every time we went downhill. It wasn’t hard to figure out that there was something very, very wrong with the brakes. In all my worrying, I had thought “What if the transmission dies? What if something happens to the engine? What if we blow a tire in the worst possible location?” But brake trouble had never crossed my mind, and I had a full-blown panic attack.
Brakes are repaired easily enough, however, and despite my slight questioning of God’s timing on the matter, we had them fixed faster and much, much cheaper than we would have back home. OK, I could handle that. Moving on. I figured that was our one screw-up of the trip, and we could move past it and have a great time. You’d think I had never have seen Apollo 13 before…
Our hotel (once we finally arrived), that I had so carefully researched, was very nice. There was an indoor, saltwater pool that we all enjoyed. A very full (and free!) breakfast each morning. The room was big enough for all of us, and even had a refrigerator for the food we had brought with us. The first night there, I went to sleep happily, relieved to have made it to our destination, and excited about the day to come.
Until the next morning, when probably my worst fear about the trip came true. My husband found what was likely a bedbug on his backpack. Freaking out ensued. We had already-paid-for tickets to a very important historical attraction, which left us unable to deal with the situation beyond alerting the front desk, and telling them we’d be back later in the day to figure it out.
I will admit that at this point, I lost it. I really questioned God. My husband travels for work frequently, to different places not just around the country, but around the world, and never has had a single problem. I leave the house once, basically since our honeymoon 14 years ago, and it’s a disaster. I was regretting the trip, wondering how I could enjoy any of the activities I had so carefully planned, even questioning whether we’d stay through the day.
With a lot of help from my family, I did manage to relax, we worked something out with the hotel and my in-laws to set my mind at ease (as much as was possible, under the circumstances, anyway), and I even enjoyed the remainder of our vacation. We made a lot of great memories, and I stopped regretting having planned the whole adventure.
So, what is the point of all this? What lesson did I learn? The big lesson was learning how true Luke 12 is:
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
Now, I know this passage isn’t talking about vacations. But it kept coming to my mind while we were dealing with all these issues on our trip, and I was constantly reminded that God is always in control, no matter how hard I try to take control myself. My planning, obsessing, and pleading before our trip didn’t change anything about it, didn’t add any time to it, didn’t prevent any of the bad things that happened, and panicking in the midst of our troubles also served no good purpose. But, God was in control of it all, and watching out for our family the entire time (as is evidenced by the fact that we survived our trek down the mountain with bad brakes and no accident!) We had a wonderful time together…probably the best time we’ve ever had, in spite of our difficulties. Thanks be to God! I am left to wonder, though, what would have happened if I had relinquished control a bit more, or a bit sooner, if I had noticed how God was blessing us and watching over us even earlier. But I know for the next time, and hopefully I have learned that I don’t need to control every aspect, every minute, every thing, because God is already there, and He cares for us even more than I can imagine!