I hadn't taken a vacation in years, so when my 16-year-old daughter and I had plans to go to California a few weeks ago, we greatly anticipated the trip.
The holiday went beautifully as we drove up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, visiting friends and family. But what I ultimately learned about our vacation had more to do with a change of scenery in my thought than all the miles we traveled.
It was upon our arrival back home that I ran into difficulty. Right away, my daughter and I began to bicker – nothing big, but the petty stuff that seems to chip away at a relationship. Along with that came a surprising number of bills waiting for me in our post office box – followed by a pressing need for freelance consulting work.
I decided I needed to face this mounting anxiety and the whole notion of chaos. As a student of Christian Science, I've had countless healings over the years, so I knew that this funk was just another opportunity to see God's care for me.
What came almost instantly was an idea from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, about there being "no lapse from nor return to harmony" (p. 471). If this statement was true, I reasoned – and from all my healings, it clearly had been – then it had to be true now.
So the question came: Arriving home from a holiday, what exactly did I think I was "returning" to?
I reached for the Bible and decided to read about one of my favorite travelers, the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). In the story, he decided to take the "portion of goods" that was his inheritance, and with that, "took his journey into a far country."
Right away, the parable puts forth the premise of separation: the dividing of an inheritance, and then going off to another location. As the familiar tale goes, he "wasted his substance with riotous living" until such time (while keeping company with swine) as he realized his mistaken view, admitting to himself that he had "sinned against heaven." When he returned home, his father, seeing him from afar off, ran and embraced his son with love and forgiveness.
Though the details of my vacation couldn't have been more different from the prodigal son's experience (for us, a great time – and not a pig in sight!), it occurred to me that the error in my thinking was the same.
The belief of needing to go off to "a far country" to find happiness or fulfillment is a lie about who we are as children of a loving, consistent Parent, God.
Our birthright, as our Maker's offspring, is continuity of good. So all along the son had possessed everything he needed. Home or away, this continuity of good was his to claim – he just didn't know it. It was the change in thought that brought clarity. When he "came to himself," he came into the understanding of who he truly was.
On the surface, going on vacation is leaving one place for another place, and it can be enlivening and refreshing. But when I was able to see it all from a spiritual perspective – which included the continuity of good after my vacation as well as before – my consciousness was refreshed, and so was my experience. Freelance work came almost immediately. The bills got paid. And my daughter and I have companioned more peacefully ever since.
This expanded understanding continues to lead my thought away from previously held ideas about vacations. With some years that allow for time away and others that just don't, this is a great freedom. Because what "Science and Health" calls the "divine adventure" is to be found in thought, whether in "a far country" or not.