by Michael R. Seaton, author of the upcoming Zondervan book "Start With Me: A Modern Parable" and creator of the "start> Becoming a Good Samaritan" DVD Curriculum
"What did you do on your summer vacation?" As kids we would often be asked that question just a day or two into the new school year, as if the measure of our success and worth for the upcoming school year hinged on how “cool” our summer was. And Summer was the best, wasn’t it? When you were very young the key joy of summer was that it seemed to last forever. As you got older it was marked by the “growing up” stages of life. For some that meant finding a way to spend endless days at the beach, for others it was that first job at the local hardware store. And if you were lucky enough—it was the also the perfect time to fall in love. With nothing but time and a few bucks in your pocket you could spend endless hours courting and pining over someone special.
But now we’re adults! Summer isn’t what it used to be. It’s over way too fast and seems to be filled with endless “around the house” chores that never end! Where is the romance, the sense of endless joy and hope that used to fill our hearts during the Summer?
Sometimes our faith feels a lot like our experience of summer. We come to know and love Jesus in the “summer” of our youth. And like the recollections from our youth it feels like “summer” will last forever. We don’t mind spending countless hours talking with him, looking for our “first jobs” in ministry, and feeling the first blush of a romance that is very special. But often times—not every time mind you—when we become adults and have worn our faith for so many winter seasons, it gets easier and easier to let worldly, practical responsibilities get in the way of our “summer” love for Jesus. How can we recapture that feeling? How can we get back our “endless summer”?
One of the things we are commanded to do as Christians is to “Serve Others”. Now after all I’ve said about the joys and freedom of summer you might wonder, how can I justify adding to your already busy schedule more work and personal commitment that comes with serving others? Well here are two answers—
1. You will gain perspective
In the midst of a highly congested personal life overrun with financial, family and business concerns, nothing—and I mean nothing—will slow you down and put the proper perspective on things like volunteering for 2 hours down at the local homeless shelter.
2. You will have fun
Secondly, and please forgive me from being so bold, I think you may be looking at things the wrong way! I think that summer is the perfect time to get involved in service and volunteer projects. Why? Because if we can be creative on how we do it, it can be the most fun you and your family have had in years. Maybe all the way back to those summers of your youth. Here’s how...
• Make volunteering a family event
Summer is the best time to pull the family together for a project. Admit it, you do it every Saturday for “chores” around the house. How happy and fulfilled is everybody after that day? Take a Saturday off and go out and volunteer in your community. I think you’ll get more high fives then you will for suggesting they weed the garden!
• Hang out with your neighbors
Throw a block party. During the party casually start conversations that lead to recognition of issues that are facing your neighbors. Then lend a hand! Small or big, it doesn’t matter, once you become involved at this personal level with the day-to-day concerns of your neighbors, you are practicing on a very real and tangible level God’s command to love him and your neighbors.
• Take a (service) vacation
Did you ever come back from a vacation thinking you need a vacation from your vacation? That’s because our vacations are events centered on doing as much “stuff” as time and money will allow. I bet if your vacation was centered on helping others you would come home more rested and satisfied – and have less suitcases filled with useless souvenirs!
After a day of serving together as a family, take time to celebrate! Celebrate the opportunity God presented, celebrate the joy you received, celebrate the new friends you’ve made. And we’ve found that a trip to the local ice cream shop is a pretty good way to start.
Recover the Endless Summer
Do you want to recover the summer of your youth? The sights, the smells, the warmth, the joy and the hope found in a beautiful summer day?
Do you want to recover your faith? The sights, the smells, the warmth, the joy and the hope found in a beautiful relationship with your Lord, Jesus Christ? This summer search no further than the homeless shelter, the nursing home, the hurting in your own neighborhood and you’ll find him—and the “Endless Summer” you’ve be longing for!