Well, I guess we won’t be riding elephants.
Today’s naptime brought me two children cozied into their restorative alone-time, and a lot of information about Bali’s most horrifyingly destructive tourist activities.
It didn’t start out that way. I’d tucked the kids in, then began researching fun things to do on our family getaway to Bali. We’re leaving our home in freezing Seoul for a week of relaxation and reconnection in white sand, warm water, and a bungalow woven of sticks. I’m just a tiny bit excited.
This winter has held so much sickness for us, so many late work hours for my husband. The Lord knows we need this rest.
But one sideways click led to a piece about the cruel training methods used on elephants. That led to an exposé about shady massage parlors, which preceded a warning about street children “employed” by exploitive adults.
It’s unlovely to admit, but my first response was weariness.
“Do I have to think about this now, God? Must I bear every burden? I just want a break!”
I know that whining about my vacation signals entitlement; telling God that anything is all about ME signals spiritual misalignment. My reaction is ironic, too, because recently God’s been drawing my attention to justice. He has persistently brought my gaze to Psalm 82:3-4:
“Defend the weak and the fatherless;
Uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
Deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Many of us vacation in areas where luxury abruptly abuts destitution, oppression lurks behind convenience, and creation has been destroyed for man’s comfort. How shall we then vacation? How can we act justly and love mercy and walk humbly in Bali, or Barbados, or Miami?
I asked God to open my eyes and soften my heart, and I recalled that our Airbnb host included a link to a local orphanage’s list of needs. When naptime was over, the children and I sorted through outgrown clothing to bring and donate. My 5 year old, gifted with a sweetly nurturing spirit, especially pored over the idea of children without parents, and we prayed for them together.
Following some online tips for ethical tourism (or How Not to Accidentally Be a Jerk Abroad), the kids and I next did a little historical research. We learned that Bali has been invaded multiple times but has still retained its cultural and religious distinctiveness. We tried out some dance steps from a YouTube tutorial. We curled our tongues around the unfamiliar taste of Balinese phrases so we would know how to greet, thank, and apologize.
None of this solves the problem of a cruelty to humans and creation that is common in Bali and elsewhere. But we are engaging our imaginations towards a totally different vacation. Perhaps our rest time, like my children’s daily naps, will be filled with things other than we’d planned. Perhaps God knows what we need, and is about to provide it.
I hope now for a time that is less about satisfying self and more about asking, learning, and honoring. I hope for realignment with the heart of God, who cares so fiercely and tenderly for His world. I hope for that wholeness which is shalom, the deepest rest of all.