Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Running away doesn't lead to happiness

I just came back from the most AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL ISLAND, possibly in the world (I say this because I haven't been to very many of them), in the Caribbean: Grand Cayman, CI.

 My only previous visit to this magical water-covered, island-littered part of the world was Haiti...not exactly a taste of blue water, white sands and gorgeous sunsets! (But beautiful and amazing in its own way!)

This trip was instigated by a close friend who, three months ago, asked, "Do you swim?"  And of course, having no concept of what that meant, answered, "Of course!"  "Then come with me to the Flowers Sea Race in Cayman!"  Me: "Sure!  What's a swim race?"

It turns out my friend is on a Masters Swim Team.  Providentially I had just begun swimming with another friend in preparation for our triathlon at her pool...an olympic size pool that incidentally I can only get into if I am with her...do I really think God worked it out so I could prepare for a mile swim race in the Caribbean?  Well I trust Him in ALL THINGS...and God works in mysterious ways!  He has brought me into some strange places...He continues to mystify and lead me in ways unseen!

Por ejemplo: This race is attended by a multitude of olympian and world champion swimmers.  My friend's swim team is coached by two former olympians.  Do I know anything about swimming or former olympic swimmers?  Of course not.  I just couldn't understand why all these people around me had the olympic symbol (5 O's) tattooed on their bodies...even a pregnant woman!

Lo and behold...every where I went...I saw this elite group of athletes...even to the strange occurrence that my friend and I were accidentally separated from our group's catamaran and placed on the olympians'!  We were surrounded...and had no idea why!  At several points I looked to heaven and laughed..."Lord, why in the world am I on this boat?  You are so weird!"

This trip was probably the closest I have come to a luxurious vacation...since mission trips in Haiti really is more my style.  I truly enjoyed the entire experience, the beauty, the warmth, the blue water and white sands, the water sports and exercise, the accomplishment of finishing the race (longest I have ever swum!), the exotic animals and flowers, the friendliness of the local people, the delicious food, and the feeling of adventure.  The enjoyment of being alive!  And the gratitude of being allowed to participate in something so amazing.

On Sunday we went to Mass and prayed with the locals, upbeat and caribbean even in prayer.  Every day we walked the beach, praying our Rosary. And at the end a prayer my friend had been making for the past several weeks was answered.

Is a Caribbean vacation the ideal place for spiritual growth?  I think the biggest take home point I took from this experience, surrounded by natural beauty, luxury, wealth and people who are a bit more important than me: happiness is not something we can create or find by seeking.  If I had gone on this vacation seeking to be fulfilled or made happy...I would have failed.  The peace that passes understanding? Sometimes that comes with sorrows and sacrifice but it can also come in moments of joy or delight...that peace is from God.  It's a gift for within.  God is good.

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