I had a most interesting week. Starting Thursday I begin what may well be the most packed 30 days of my life so far. So about two months ago when my wife, who doesn’t ask much out of me, asked me if I’d go with her to a conference she was attending with her work and I looked at my schedule and could, I jumped at the chance.
Little did I know that it might just have been one of the best trips ever timed! We were to leave on Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday we had ice and snow. Then Wednesday temps started REALLY falling - got down to 0 with wind chills in the negative teens. And Mel and me, we flew out Wednesday afternoon to Phoenix, Arizona. Temps were mid 80’s and sunny every day and high 60’s at night. It was nice enough that I went hiking one afternoon. Chamber of Commerce weather in every way. It was as different for me as any trip I’ve ever been on. I wasn’t there to speak, attend, intervene, counsel, negotiate, emcee, moderate, or facilitate. I was there to just be there with my wife. It was a work conference for her that I was there with. And while Melanie had sessions to attend, I had free time to enjoy the awesome 4 star resort that we were put up in. The attention of the staff to detail and to the guests was beyond compare. They do it right. We were there for two nights that when more snow began to fall back in Nashville led to a third night. Man, it was rough :).
The lobby led out to a courtyard with grass manicured enough I had to touch it to be convinced it was real. Ornamental orange trees added a fragrance difficult to describe. The refreshment cabana was had about any kind of goodie within reach. The exercise room felt clean and smelled nice and the hot tub was the perfect temperature and vacant! Even the drive way looked like it was freshly waxed.
I experienced what I’ve decided to call “short stay syndrome.” I’ve never heard the term before and google didn’t show me any uses of it so I’ll claim it my own term. “Short Stay Syndrome” or SSS for short is that mirage we experience when we are in a nice place only long enough to see the good that is there and to not see the reality that said place is - well - earthly and therefore flawed. When experiencing SSS we don’t see the full trash can, the person cutting the grass (it does grow), the spoiled oranges (they do fall off the tree and have to be picked up), the chlorine dumped into the hot tub, the problems and issues of the local. We don’t see the hotel staff having a horrid day - they put a smile on anyway, the financial struggles of the maid crew, the marriage matters of the waiter. Yes, yes, they are all there. Reality is reality everywhere.
It’s not just at Four Star Resorts that people experience SSS. Church members experience it when they go to the “big box event” where all the speakers are on cue and the meet and greets are only long enough to share the positives. Preachers experience it on the road where all the comments on a sermon are encouraging and you don’t know the issues of the members. Men experience it in fantasy affairs where the morning after doesn’t really exist. Teens experience it at summer camp where the event is planned around them and the staff can only discipline so far. We experience it when we visit a new congregation for the first few times - only enough to not learn the issues of that congregation. It’s there when we meet a new person and get to hear their story for the first time - not the 100th.
Now, I’m not suggesting SSS is wrong or bad - in most cases it is not. But don’t get wrapped up in it. It will make you dislike real life if you do. And it’s deceiving - there is no perfect person, location, preacher, congregation, situation. The greater danger is forgetting that we are called to live our lives out in the reality of our own environment and situation. We are to shine as stars in a dark universe. We are to endure hardships. We are to be stedfast. We have to learn contentment, to practice forgiveness and forbearance, to accept as we’ve been accepted and to be long-suffering. It’s a tad out of context but is true nonetheless - “the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). So, enjoy the Stay but remember to stay!