“You can’t possibly go more than an hour without checking your phone,” my good friend Bryan joked, his wife, Alex totally supporting his point. My competitive attitude immediately kicked in and snapped back, “Wanna bet?”
I’ll be the first to admit to you that I am addicted to my iPhone. It is my watch, my brain, my notebook, my whiteboard, my way of communication, my calendar, my camera, my map and my business. The list goes on and on.
Our world is so cluttered with noise. We feel our phone buzz or hear our computer chime and immediately check to see what the latest news is. We are so consumed by technology and the busyness of our lives and hectic schedules that slowing down seems to be out of the question.
Life is a journey–to some, a race. Culture has convinced us that we must always look ahead, aiming towards the future. Sometimes though, the best step we can take to move forward is stopping and reflecting on the past. When we slow down and silence ourselves just long enough to listen and think, it is absolutely astonishing the amazing insights we will gain from our own experiences throughout our life.
A Challenge in the Middle of Nowhere
Realizing that I had to take action upon accepting the challenge of Bryan’s “no-human-contact” proposition, I started planning my 30-hour getaway. This was not supposed to be a vacation, but instead a time of true isolation–just God and me. No other people and absolutely no technological contact with the outside world.
I started scoping out locations for this 30-hour wilderness adventure. Everywhere I looked, there would be lots of human contact. In fact, unless I left the country and went away in some piece of forsaken land in the Amazon, there are not many places in the United States where you can truly be alone. But finally, after searching and looking at places in Peru and Costa Rica and Alaska and Thailand, I landed on Florida. More specifically, the Everglades National Park in Florida. This incredible national park is 1.5 million acres large. There is a lot of room to get lost and be alone.
So, I packed a kayak with a tent, sleeping bag, plenty of fresh water, a compass/GPS, my camera, pen and paper and set off on my adventure. Following nautical maps I had to navigate the confusing mangroves of the Everglades for just under 10 miles by kayaking before landing on a small piece of land that was designated for camping. There was no fireplace, no running water, no bathroom. Just the woods, alligators, snakes, spiders, mosquitos and I.
The Power of Silence
As I kayaked in the hot Florida sun, battling rather sever winds, get soaked by the salt water and having salt dry to my skin, I had no where to turn but to God. Thirty hours of prayer and meditation and reflection is possibly the most incredible opportunity any human can have. I abandoned work, family, friends, technology and people for thirty hours to just absorb Creation and talk to the Creator.
Those thirty hours of silence allowed me to look inwardly and see how hundreds of different events in my life all interacted together to bring me to where I was at that point in my life. For the first time, my eyes were opened to struggles I didn’t know I had. My heart was burdened for things that I knew needed to be changed. My world of noise was shattered by the silence.
Sitting on the shore of my campsite and watching the sun dance over the still water as it slipped away for the evening behind the mighty mangroves (as shown in the picture above) rocked my world. Filling pages of my notebook with thoughts, ideas, prayers and desires enabled me to step out of this world for just a few moments and take a look at what was going on around me. In doing that, when I stepped back into society 30-hours later, I was better equipped and more ready to face the challenges and to embrace growth in my weakest spots.
Will You Take the Challenge?
My Campsite in the Everglades
Are you brave enough to step away from the busyness of all that goes on this game we call life to step back and just reflect? I am not challenging you to thirty hours and I am not challenging you to go do something crazy and leave civilization on a daring and dangerous kayaking expedition through the Everglades. I am merely challenging you to take a break from your day. Go somewhere where you will truly find peace and quiet and simply reflect. Learn. Listen.
Those thirty hours were truly, revolutionary. Those thirty hours very possibly could have been more challenging, more growing and more eye-opening than the past two decades of my life. Those thirty hours molded me and shaped me. Those thirty hours could be some of the best thirty hours of my life.