I am just a few days past my two week vacation in July. I have two problems whenever I have some time off from work: the time goes too fast and the time is never long enough. I never get to the “I can’t wait to get back to work” stage. I believe I could retire tomorrow and never be bored (if I only had the resources!).
I recognize how fast the time will go even on my first day off. On the first day of my recent vacation I was running and thinking that before I knew it – in the twinkling of an eye – I would be running on the day before starting back to work. That was exactly the case. It is not that we did nothing during my time off – we spent some time at the beach and a short time in the mountains, and got some work around the house done, but the looming of the end of the vacation was always in the background. I try to tell myself to live in the moment and enjoy things as they unfold. I do enjoy them but I can never shake the feeling that the shadow of the end is with me wherever I go. Perhaps this is a weakness in my own heart and mind.
I recognize, too, that the time will not be enough. When vacation is over, I am not excited about the prospect of going back to work because there are still other things to be done and, perhaps more importantly, I never get to the point of really feeling rested and refreshed. My work (Vice-President of Academics at a college) is such that even when I am on vacation I can never completely disengage. I still have to respond to emails and take certain phone calls and work on different items so that the work of the college can move ahead. I am thinking about work even when I am off from work. Perhaps this is also a weakness.
However, in thinking more deeply about this, maybe these are not weaknesses but the way the Lord intends it to be. In John Piper’s book Desiring God he talks about the reasons why earthly pleasures can never really satisfy and why heavenly pleasures can and do. He says that earthly pleasures have at least two problems which render them unable to satisfy. One reason is that they are always temporary. Since they are unable to last forever, they can only provide a respite of pleasure but never one which will last. This respite of pleasure will too quickly pass. The second reason is related to the first. Since earthly pleasures cannot go on forever, they can never be fully enjoyed in a way that will bring ongoing satisfaction. They are never quite enough. They are gone in the twinkling of an eye.
Heavenly pleasures do not have these problems. They will last forever and they will bring ongoing satisfaction in God. Through eternity the satisfaction will never decrease but I imagine that ongoing life in the presence of the Lord will enable us to experience that satisfaction in God more deeply and richly as eternity marches on.
So the experience of earthly pleasures, along with their inadequacies, cause us to long for those heavenly pleasures that are fully abundant and without any inadequacies. The fact that my vacations go too fast and are never long enough are part of the Lord’s design. I can enjoy them as I am able but but I can never place my hope in them. They provide me with a shadow of glory and create a taste for the heavenly reality as I continue to live in the grind of today’s earthly reality.