A few weeks ago, the good deacon and I hurried into Border’s to find a guidebook to Germany. Mike’s cousin Stjepan had sent us the itinerary for our upcoming visit with him and we hoped to familiarize ourselves with the sights we’d visit before we arrived. Unfortunately, our Gurnee neighbors took advantage of the store’s liquidation sale before we did and nothing left in the travel section was remotely related to Germany. Much to my dismay, this didn’t stop my dear husband from scanning every shelf in search of guidebooks to other equally interesting destinations. Had I not been with him, I’m certain Mike would have purchased far more than the two non-Germany guidebooks books with which we left. After dropping me off at home, Mike went on to Barnes & Noble in Vernon Hills where he reluctantly controlled himself and purchased only the guidebook to Germany that we needed.
The problem here is that my husband is a would-be world traveler and I’m a homebody. Though I enjoy driving trips and am comfortable enough with cross-country flights, the prospect of overseas travel sends chills up my spine. There is neither rhyme nor reason for this aversion as I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout our prior stays in Croatia and Italy. Still, there is something about the preparations that fills me with paralyzing worry. As my to-do list lengthens, my fears mount. This is usually when the good deacon mentions four or five other destinations on his “bucket list.” With each sentence that begins with “Some day, I also want to go to…” my trepidation increases exponentially. It is then that I remind the poor man that his timing is impeccably poor and that I can’t think about going anywhere else until at least a few weeks after I return from this particular trip. With that, Mike rolls his eyes and sneaks away with his imagined itinerary intact. Left to my own resources, I return to my packing and my internal misery.
Finally, as our pre-travel to-do list shortens and our suitcases fill to just under fifty pounds each, I feel the tension ease a bit. Though it was absolute love and some sense of obligation that caused me to agree to this trip, I find myself perusing our guidebook. As we ride to the airport, I sense that I’m excited about our arrival in Germany. I love Mike’s cousins Stjepan and Josip, and it will be with great joy that I hug them at the airport. It will be with even greater joy that I’ll observe these three Penić men as they reunite to celebrate their much appreciated family ties. With this vision of Stjepan, Josip and Mike in mind, I fasten my seatbelt with a smile and sit back for the seven and a half hour flight.
As I read today’s gospel (Matthew 21:28-32), I identified with each of the brothers whose father asked him to work his vineyard one day. The first son replied, “I will not.” Yet, afterward, he thought better of his insolence and went out to the vineyard to work as his father asked. The second son replied immediately to his father’s request. “Yes, sir,” he said, but then went on his way and did none of the work. Sometimes, I find myself saying “no” with the first son in Jesus’ parable. When my husband suggests a trip, I respond with numerous reasons not to go at a given time. Then, something –or Someone- nudges me with the encouragement I need. I consider the treasure that our world and its people are. I withdraw my refusal and embrace what develops into an amazing encounter with the best of God’s creation. Sometimes, I find myself saying “yes” with the second son in Jesus’ parable. Out of frustration or fatigue or simply to rid myself of Mike’s insistence, I agree to go anywhere simply to end the discussion. The obvious results are my own frustration when the trip planning begins and Mike’s disappointment when I admit that this is something I’m simply not prepared to do.
One missed day of work didn’t make or break the vineyard owner’s business, just as my travel issues matter little in the grand scheme of things. Still, if the son who didn’t work that day approaches his relationship with his father with similar dishonesty, he’s cheating his dad and himself of the best of God’s gifts –our relationships with one another. If I withhold my feelings and simply say what I think Mike or anyone else wants to hear, I rob our relationships of the opportunity to deepen and grow. So it is that God invites us to do our best to speak from our hearts. If we fail to express our true intent, God invites us to edit as needed. If we find ourselves not living up to our promises, God invites us to reevaluate, to regroup and to set things right by doing the right thing.
©2011 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved