Life’s No Picnic. No, Really, It Isn’t.

by Laura on January 16, 2013

Swain family picnicking near the Colony Beach Club: Longboat Key, Florida
Here in the comfortable West, we tend to think of life as an extravagant beach picnic. Our families are gathered around on red checkered tablecloths, eating fried chicken, those little pickles and chunks of fresh watermelon. We drink our sweet tea while we relax in the sun, and we call to our kids to be careful in the surf. Our beach picnic experience values safety, comfort, fun, and so we put energy into volleyball tournaments and swimming lessons, nice woven picnic baskets and sunscreen with a high spf.

But there’s another reality existing on this same beach. And it’s no picnic.
Two-Wheel Invasion

Instead, it’s Normandy, and it looks like a scene from Saving Private Ryan on D-Day. There are bullets flying and bodies dropping. We dig heels into sand and grip weapons with sweaty palms, and we try to stuff the panic that threatens to undo us. This beach calls for sacrifice and demands action, and so we drag the wounded behind the shields, we fire on the enemy, and we push forward, somehow, anyway.


And this, this is the dual reality I find myself battling daily from my suburban life in the United States these days. Because it feels like the gravity in our culture centers on this idea of life as a beach picnic. From advertisements to movie stars to the American Dream itself, we are born into this belief that it is our right to pursue happiness, that we should always be advancing our own comfort and that of our children. And so, we purchase and invest accordingly– our time and energies, our admiration and finances.

And, yes, this is human– to want better for our kids, of course. Yes, this is good, to enjoy the advantages of family time on a beach somewhere, fostering pleasant memories, absolutely. But, I wonder if all too often our entire mindset shifts and we end up consistently choosing a life in the Matrix— fine, but not true. Comfortable, but not epic. Safe, but not necessarily good.

Because by God, by God, our lives are more Normandy than beach picnic, aren’t they? Aren’t they?

Isn’t there pain unimaginable in the world? Isn’t there disappointment that haunts most of us, most of the time? Don’t we wake up some days and feel a weight of depression pressing in? Aren’t there orphans and slaves and foster kids and abused women, in numbers too big for our minds to grasp? Isn’t there genocide and starvation and shootings at elementary schools, bringing pain our hearts can’t start to understand?

And did Jesus ever describe life in terms of building an easier, more comfortable experience for ourselves? Didn’t he consistently talk instead about crosses and battles and laying down lives, about service and sacrifice and giving up everything to follow?

Reality and Kingdom scream D-Day more than 4th of July, especially in the spiritual world, and whether we want to see it or not, there are bigger stakes here than if there’s enough fried chicken for seconds. Faith and Hope and Love hang in the balance on this beach, and so does the Kingdom-coming. People around us need us to speak truth and fight for their hearts and demand justice on their behalf-– and this will require sacrifice and stepping off the boat and the expected wound or two or three , or one hundred.

Good and evil are clashing on this sand, both globally and right here in our affluent neighborhoods, and the minute we start assuming all of life is just picnic with comfort the goal, well, I wonder if that’s the moment we begin a journey away from God,

and into a false, sleepy reality that might be pleasant, but is so. much. less.


Does this resonate with you? How? And how does this mentality (wether beach picnic or Normandy) shape our lives?

This analogy is one which has shaped me in my spiritual life and was given to me by a dear mentor Patty D. 

photo credits: Florida State Archives, The National Archives UK {FlickrCreativeCommons)

“Safe, but not good” reference- C.S. Lewis

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  • jennifer


  • John Bergquist

    Laura, what strikes me is the beauty I find myself in even when I am fighting darkness. Truthfully we all need breaks but boy I think I enjoy the little surprises (like a tasty piece of fruit on an exotic beach or a cup of good coffee) when I am in the middle of a fight for someone in need. I think we actually get bored and experience dull lives when we don’t have a battle to fight. I know I do as a man. Great reminder.

    • Laura Parker

      John, yes, there is this deep goodness in the gifts in the midst of battle. And I agree, somehow those things speak even more clearly when life feels hard. In a sense, the awareness of battle heightens the potential for gratitude, don’t you think?

      Thanks for entering this recent battle on the other side of the world with us.

  • Teri Miller

    Oh. My. Gosh.
    I could not agree more.

    • Laura Parker

      Thanks, friend. :)

  • Jeannette Walti

    Hi Laura… thank you so much …again. I love those picnics on the beach, I crave those picnics….yet find myself in the middle. No picnic….yet no battle at Normandy. I am always looking back over my shoulder at my friends in America…wanting to go back, yet knowing that the Lord has called us overseas to share His love. Thanks for the great reminder…I am going in.

    • Laura Parker

      Life is all about tension, isn’t it? The tension between what we want and where we find ourselves. And I think it’s easy to think that the other, whatever the other is, is the picnic. When, in reality, wherever we are (states, overseas, kids, no kids, etc) we can choose Normandy or beach picnic.

      I love tho, that for you, this speaks to the going, the serving . . . . Love that you ended this comment with “I am going in.” Oh, may we all have that obedience to follow and step off the boat.

  • Tricia M.

    Yes and amen.
    So hard to remember to fight sometimes when we’re surrounded by people who have all their real needs met on a daily basis. Even the homeless are so well fed they reject offers of food!
    I just read Kisses from Katie–have to pick that up on a regular basis to remember what needs and battles are being fought daily in other places on behalf of the hopeless.

    • Laura Parker

      Yes, Tricia, I agree that our affluence here in the West really feeds this idea of beach picnic. It screams it at us daily and I feel like in many ways its harder to STAY AWAKE in this culture than it was overseas.

  • Ashlee E

    Good reminder! This reminds me of a book I recently read–Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. It was so challenging and resonates with your comments here. Thanks for your blog; I enjoy reading it.

    • Laura Parker

      THanks, Ashlee! Appreciate your kind words. :)

      I’ve heard tons about that book, and may need to check it out sooner than later!

      Keep battling, friend.

  • Brittany Girle

    wow. this speaks the burdens of my heart into words. thank you for writing… boldly, honestly and with a convicting call to challenge us all to more. we grew up believing and understanding that life was “supposed” to go a certain way and i dare say that a great deal of our heartaches come from the disappoints when life does not go this way. keep writing in truth and honesty that blows the “american dream” and our understanding of what life is “supposed” to be, out of the water.

    • Laura Parker

      Ah, yes, expectations.

      They can be brutal on our faith, can’t they?

      When we expect beach picnic, we get resentful, frustrated entitled more easily.

      But when we expect war, suddenly, our expectation is for the hard, the gritty, the struggle, the “things not working out” and we suddenly gain a better mindset, I think.

      Thanks for your comment– love connecting with you.

  • Angie Washington

    I so very much LOVE the way your brain works. And you always have the perfect visual aids on your posts. So, regarding the content of this pertinent piece: I agree. The Matrix reference stuck a chord with me. I have often wished I could swallow the pill that allows me to taste that succulent steak while basking in pure ignorance of reality. Oh to un-know what we have come to know. Thanks for keeping it real friend.

    • Laura Parker

      This, I think is a statement worth repeating:

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