The first time I went to Florida on vacation, I had no idea a place like that even existed. Growing up in Ohio, I was used to pine trees, not palm trees. Riding a bike in December? Unheard of! Running up and down the beach chasing crabs instead of lightening bugs. As Jasmine from the Disney movie, Aladdin, would say, “It’s a whole new world.”
The more I vacationed in Florida, the more I wanted to live there. But soon after actually making the transition I realized that being on vacation--with no responsibilities, eating out in a different seafood restaurant every night and playing at theme parks all day--is not real, everyday life. It’s actually something you do to escape responsibility, relax, try new adventures, then after a few days you pack up and return to real life.
Vacations in many ways are like illusions: you don’t notice the traffic because you are on your way to the “happiest place on earth”. You don’t care about how much money you are spending because after all...who knows when you will be able to return. You’ll pay the credit card off “later”. But when you actually move to your vacation spot, that is when reality sets in. That’s where you learn the true price tag of turning a week’s vacation into a permanent dwelling.
It wasn’t until AFTER I moved to Florida that I learned how expensive car insurance is because so many drive without it and shoot the cost up for those who do. When I went to get my Florida license plate, that’s when I learned there is an “impact fee” of $200 plus for every vehicle. My first summer in Florida I endured three hurricanes, which included loss of power for days each time in mid-summer heat. A case of teenage acne sent me to the doctor to which I was told, “Your body has to adapt to a tropical climate. It will take about a year.”
I’m well established here now and enjoy every single day of life in a tropical environment, but the love affair needed time to grow. Florida and I had to adapt to one another. I know now which roads to avoid and where the good shortcuts are. I’ve found an excellent dentist, know which grocery store is the most pleasant to shop at, which mall is more relaxing to visit. And, yes, I’ve enjoyed many years of Florida resident pricing at the major theme parks. The Sunshine State and I have grown to love one another.
But here is my point: Visiting a geographical location with a vacation mentality is not the same as living there day after day, year after year, and learning to overcome its quirks, its hassles and the things that don’t seem fair. Any negatives that I encountered--those things I didn’t “see” during vacation mode--took time to adapt to and find a compromise with.
Human relationships aren't much different. We can meet someone--whether it be in person or even online--and let’s face it, for a while you are in vacation mode. If you like what you see, like what they say, or even experience a “this must be God” reaction, the early days are vacation mode. You have on rose colored glasses and the view tends to be...well...rosy.
I am not discounting the actual “God brought two people together and they know it right away” situation. I’ve even known someone it happened to, but that is not the norm. That is an exception where two people are really ready and spiritually mature enough to handle it.
For the most part, when two people find that initial attraction, they are on vacation. But on vacation you don’t see if that person is willing to help wash the dishes because there aren’t any to wash. You eat out every night. You can’t see if that person is willing to compromise on anything, because who wants to waste time arguing on vacation? You want to go here. I want to go there. Let’s do both, we’re on vacation!
When you visit tourist sites, eat in candlelit restaurants, laugh at every joke and post selfies on social media that get 100 likes in the first 20 minutes, it must be real, right? Wrong. You’re on vacation.
People who meet in real life twice and decide to get married scare me. They remind me of myself on my first trip to Florida. Chase the crabs down the beach, eat at Joe’s Seafood Shack, Bob’s Seafood Hut and Jimmy’s Seafood Heaven. Go to a theme park a day until you can barely walk, collapse into bed with no responsibility--oh yeah, I want to live here. Until you find out about the car insurance, impact fee and hurricanes...
Getting to know what someone is like in everyday life takes time. It takes being in “everyday life situations”.
Everyone is going to scream on a roller coaster, smile at a pink and yellow sunset and say, yum, when they take a bite of lobster dipped in butter. But how they respond when a bill is overdue, you aren’t as excited about their sports team as they are and you find your prayer life slipping because they don’t understand your need for alone time.
That hobby they have--you didn’t see just how important it is to them and how much time and money it consumes. That tendency to put others ahead of you--wow, where did that come from?--you thought you were the queen. How long have you known this person? How many relationships have they been in and out of in the past year?
1 Corinthians 13 talks about love. The God kind of love. Everyday love. It says things like this: It’s patient and kind. It hardly notices when a wrong has been done to it. It’s not rude. It's not jealous. Love endures long. This passage let’s you know the character traits you will need for an everyday love life, not a vacation love life.
When you see someone and think they are perfect, Heaven sent, without flaws--you are judging them by standards that only a fictional character would have. Then when you come out of vacation mode someday and get to really know them, you will be disappointed and begin to blame them for not living up to the standard you created.
We can only love, be patient and kind as we allow someone to unfold, and that takes time. Time allows us to see one another for the sometimes broken, imperfect vessels that we really are. That is a view only revealed in everyday life. Now 1 Corinthians 13 love becomes necessary and brings God into the equation. Pretending that we are so good, so Godly, so perfect for each other that we won’t even need 1 Corinthians 13 love is a recipe for heartache once the vacation is over.
A string of selfies does not require patience. Deciding which restaurant to eat at next does not require patience--pick one--the world is your oyster (pardon the pun). Someone calling you pet names is no guarantee of a successful relationship. But doing everyday life together where you have opportunities to show the God-kind of love and see the other person for who they really are is the stuff longevity is made of. And that takes time.
How much time have you two actually spent together? Days? You’re on vacation. Weeks? Still on vacation. What questions have you not asked because you think you don’t need to know the answers? You need to know. You're not perfect. Your love interest is not perfect. But God is perfect and He is not in any hurry.