Summer! A time of watermelons on a hot day, waterslides, camping, hot dogs by the fire, music festivals, beers on patios, bbq with friends! What a season! It’s a time of year that many of us perceive as special, a time when many of us feel as though we have TIME. Schools close, extracurricular activities slow or stop, workplaces tend to slow and holidays are taken. So why the warning? What could go wrong?
You can be among those who waste the summer, that’s what.
So many people I talk with feel busy, frustrated, anxious and generally unsure about their summer plans this year. Maybe it is because after two summers of covid we forget how to do it, or maybe we just have so many pent up desires it is hard to choose. It feels a bit like the malaise that sometimes strikes before Christmas as people frantically try to re-create their most precious youthful memories (a failing, of course.) We need to get summer right, it matter for our relationships, our spiritual, mental and emotional health.
The issue, as I see it, is that much of the year we are asked to give, to pour out, so to speak, and as we all know we need a full cup to pour from. The challenge, and it seems to be growing, is identifying what fills the cup. Many of us seem to be planning for things that are like water flowing through a sieve, there is water but it falls out as fast as it comes in. Maybe the advertisers are winning their battle for us and more and more of us are literally buying into their false promises, like if we had the right camper van or tent, the right beach (with the perfect sunglasses, bikinis, etc) then we would be well. Another option, and one that I think is more likely, is that we see what fills other people up and we copy them in the hope that it will fill us. This is the camper who doesn’t actually like camping but joins their friends outside, or the concert-goer who doesn’t like crowds or the music but likes their friends, the beach sitter who would rather be hiking and hiker who would rather be at a fancy restaurant. All of these can be good and soul-satisfying because they can bring us closer to God, and yet they do not all work for everyone. There is no universal cup, no IKEA plastic that fills the same way for everyone. Our cups are (to change metaphors mid-stream) bespoke. They are individual, they can only be filled by recognizing and accepting our particulars.
I have the impression, and I may be wrong, that many of the people I speak with no longer know what fills their cup. Maybe they need to embrace their inner child and ride a train, maybe they need to build a sandcastle, or read a book. For some of us gardening is great, for those like me it is not so great, for some it is cooking a meal for others. Maybe they need to pray, fast, meditate, sing holy hymns.
This isn’t a call to holiness. It is a call to intentionality. God has numbered our days, we get to choose hoo we spend them. Copying others won’t do. Listening to advertisers won’t do. Of course, as a Christian I believe that to really feel full we must be filled with Christ and the Holy Spirit and I pray that you are.
If I can suggest anything I would love to invite you to sit down with a pad of paper (actual paper and pen) and write down all the things you are invited to do this summer, all the things you want to do, and where you think that desire comes from and how doing it will fill you. This should help clarify what you are going to do, why you are going to do it, and help you to have the sorts of experiences and fun you need to fill your particular cup.