There are tears and there are tantrums but there’s nothing quite like a toddler meltdown to ruin a perfectly good day on holiday.
I can remember having several such meltdowns myself at an early age when we went on our annual great escape to Arbroath. My parents would save all year round to afford a week in a nice hotel and we would save our pocket money in our piggy banks to afford a shot on the beach trampolines or donkey rides. The summer holiday was looked forward to the moment Easter break ended and my father would start counting down the days beginning with ‘this time next month…’, then ‘this time next week…’ until finally it would be ‘this time tomorrow… we will all be in Arbroath!’
In hindsight, I now realise he never said things like: this time next week we will all be stuck in a hot and nasty traffic jam. Or something like, this time tomorrow we’ll all be sitting on the beach frozen solid, mum in her cardigan and huddled behind a windbreak. It’s an interesting facet of life that our memories tend to be rosier than reality and even though we all knew it would be ‘baltic’ in Arbroath, we delighted in dad’s enthusiasm to simply get away from everyday life.
Some forty years on I realise my parents worked hard to afford this luxury for us and for them. It wasn’t so much that life was bad in any way, but there is something about changing the patterns, shifting location and retreating from what is normal that allows our intellect and our souls to replenish and renew.
Jesus did it. Often.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Mark 6:22-24 (NIV)
Between feeding the multitudes and healing the sick Jesus retreated to be alone with His Father. I often read the verses above and wonder what He was thinking as He looked down from the mountainside and saw the disciples drifting further and further away in the boat. Was it relief? Perhaps a brief respite from the activity and demands of His ministry. Later as He walks across the waves to the disciples, it is not only Peter who is immersed in the moment! Jesus once again is recharged and ready for whatever awaits Him on the other side of the lake.
I suspect often we make demands on Jesus much like an overtired toddler does of his or her parents. A bit crabby, perhaps a little selfish and without stopping to truly listen to what our loving Father is saying. The pressures of everyday life threatening to drown out that reassuring voice, the softest of tones even in the middle of a meltdown moment. Like Jesus, we must learn to withdraw to hear with ease the love of our Father and again instill the calm of His voice in our soul.
This year I am embarking once more on another family holiday. This one is different from any other and has an added element of peril. Three generations of McDonald women are flying off to visit our extended family in the USA. Within the clan I am the Grauntie (Granny-Auntie) and we, the brave, are flying with my 5 month-old great-niece. Even as I type I am praying this year won’t be the year of my very own toddler transatlantic meltdown moment!
Director of National Ministries