As a child, summer was a time to slow down. I went to school for nine months and had three off to just be a kid and not worry about homework or tests. Of course I grew up on a farm, so “being a kid” also meant working 12 hours a day all summer long and never going on family vacations. There was plenty to be done during that time, but it was simple, routine stuff, not a ton of thought required. I usually did the exact same chores every day with little variation. As an introvert, I thrived on the solitude of long stretches of empty road, big open fields, a barn full of cows that didn’t require my conversation. There is a simple satisfaction there. I could think, dream, explore, read books, listen to music… It was life giving. Sure, I resented it at times, especially in my teen years when friends spent their summers partying, but I’m not sure I would trade any of it.
I’ve heard plenty of adults lament their childhood: carefree, no responsibility… the biggest decision being which flavor of ice cream to eat that day. I see adults attempt to turn back the clock and schedule summer vacations, slow down, take time off. It’s certainly not the same. Planning trips is a stressful undertaking, traveling with young children is especially difficult, and since “being carefree” usually translates “getting hammered” to adults, there are real world consequences in our attempts.
Not only that, but adult life does not actually allow for summer breaks. The school year unfortunately, only applies to those actually within the school system. Kudos to those of you who went into the education field. Smart thinking. Sorry about the salary. For the rest of us, we have to work extra hard to “get ahead” in our work so that we can take these breaks, invariably we miss something major while we’re gone, and we either end up working on our vacation or have to scramble to “catch up” once we get back. So, in short, we work harder to get a break, that does not actually feel like a break while we’re there, and then rush to get back to work where we’ve already fallen behind, which forces us to work harder then. It’s not a great system. I’m not arguing against Capitalism, a free market economy is a beautiful thing, but rather my beef is with adulthood.
No matter your country of origin, economic status, or career field, being an adult requires that you provide for yourself. That you work to make money so that you can eat, possess clothing, live in a dwelling, and hopefully get to do some things you enjoy besides that… even more so if you have a family. None of that stops or waits for you to be ready. If you are more successful in life, some of those things get easier. If you are less successful in life, mostly they get harder. Them’s the breaks kid.
The gospel messes with all of this. Jesus tells us in Luke 18:24-25 that it is really hard, nay impossible, for people who are wealthy and have their life together to understand the gospel. When we have success, earned or given, we start to depend on that. The things we want come easier, we don’t have to wait, doors are opened for us, we get down time when we need it. We think, “I’ve got this thing figured out.” Our life going well for us actually works against us. The rest of us look at the freight train of our lives and recognize that, more than just a little help, we need someone to rescue us. We aren’t blind to the gnawing vacuum of our inability. When Jesus tells us He wants to take our heavy yoke, that He is here to give us rest, that He wants to set us free, that everything is already finished… We allow ourselves to collapse, exhausted, into His waiting arms.
The freedom of the gospel that we talk about so much here isn’t an empty platitude. It is the truer and better summer break. It gives us space to breathe, it gives us rest, it refreshes and revitalizes us. Jesus tells the woman of Sychar (John 4:1-42) that He wants to give her a drink of water, not one that she’ll drink and be thirsty again tomorrow, but a drink that will create a spring of water within her that will leap up and quench every thirst she ever has… for eternity. She was in the midst of her shame, inability, and humiliation. She had already failed at this life. She begged for this drink of water because she thought it meant she wouldn’t have to face any of it any more. What Jesus gave her was the gospel, He changed her positional relationship with God, He took away her failings and He gave her a straight “A+” report card to start off her summer right.
Using Pastor Tullian’s language, this summer we beg you to take two shots. The first one is Law. It is the realization that you’re not where you want to be, that none of this is going as planned, and that the road ahead looks as glum as the thought that it will soon be winter. That’s bitter to swallow to be certain, and it needs a chaser. Here’s the perfect one: the Gospel. God entered into humanity as a baby, lived the perfect life that you couldn’t live in your place, died the brutal death that you deserve to die, and came back to life announcing His victory over death, hell, and sin. “It is finished.” Drink up friends.