June 8 2017
I love my job, but I know that I occasionally need to get away from it to keep myself sane. I did that this week, and it helped me see things a bit differently, and I’d like to share that with you.
This week, we got away for a few days to a place that our friends own up in Whistler. We got to use it because (a) our friends are really generous and gave it to us for free, and (b) this is what the travel industry calls the “shoulder season.” At Whistler right now, there’s not enough snow left on the mountain to ski, but there’s enough left that you can’t fully engage in summer activities either.
The shoulder season presents a bit of a conundrum for places like Whistler because it’s hard to sell a destination when you can’t really do what most people come to Whistler to do. For that reason, the shoulder season is actually my favourite time to go somewhere because, as a Baptist with Dutch roots, I can’t resist a good deal.
I’m sure that it’s tempting for places like Whistler to shorten their shoulder season as much as possible, if for no other reason than to keep what seems like half the population of Australia gainfully employed. I mean, there’s only so much you can do when there’s snow involved, but I think you get what I’m trying to say.
After all, the point of the exercise is to maximize revenue, and the shoulder season isn’t where you generate the revenue. The shoulder season feels like a useless time of waiting, and it would be best to get through it as fast as possible, or eliminate it entirely for that matter.
But that approach would be short-sighted. The shoulder season isn’t something you have to wait through to get to the good stuff: it’s the time of the year where you do the necessary and usually unglamorous work of preparation.
The shoulder season is when you have a moment to reflect on how the previous season and how you’re going to put into practice what you learned next time. It’s the time when you train all those Australian ski technicians how to repair mountain bikes. It’s the time when you rip up the street to fix a water leak, because you know you can’t do that when the village is really packed.
In other words, there is no high season without the shoulder season.
I think the idea of the shoulder season is a pretty apt description of where Parkland is at right now. We know that God has a bright kingdom future in store for us, and I’m as optimistic about that now as I was when I first arrived—more so, in fact.
But while we wait for that season to arrive, we have the chance to do the less glamorous work that we need to do in order to be ready. We’re doing a bunch of that behind-the-scenes, most of it invisible. But the shoulder season work extends beyond the institution of Parkland and into each of our hearts.
Last week we started to look at what’s likely Jesus’ most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. Luke’s version of it is shorter than Matthew’s, but all of the constituent pieces are there. Jesus preached that sermon to give his disciples an idea of what it looks like to live out their discipleship in the everyday world, and its lessons are as relevant to us now as they were in the first century.
As we continue to dig into what Jesus says, the Holy Spirit will identify for each of us those areas of our lives that need to be shored up by his grace and power. He’ll point out the places where we’re making decisions that are about keeping glory for ourselves as opposed to giving it to him. And he’ll invite us to repent and change.
That work isn’t glamorous. It might not even be noticeable. But it’s critically important because it allows us to be, in the words of the angel Gabriel, a people prepared. A people prepared for God’s work. A people prepared for his power. A people prepared for his presence. A people prepared for the kingdom revolution.
My invitation to you today is to be courageous and do that work in your life, whatever it looks like, and to invite others in on that journey with you.
Personally, I’d love to see Parkland grow from a small church into a bigger one, with lots of programs and exciting things happening, and I know that many of you feel the same way. But let’s not look at this shoulder season as a time of waiting for the fun to start.
There is no high season without the shoulder season. So let’s use this time to prepare and be ready for the amazing things that God has in store for us so that we can see him work powerfully through us for his glory.