2 weeks ago, I was part of an amazing scouting adventure in the Florida Everglades. A recon. Research, networking, exploration and a harvesting of as many Glades skills as we could scavenge.
My co-guides and I all knew it would be, to borrow the favorite expression of my friend Kathy, a very “interesting situation”. New adventures just are. But we weren’t prepared for just how interesting our situation would be.
We set out under the dire predictions of being de-limbed and then eaten by an alligator, or suffocated and then eaten by a snake, or swept out to sea, or dehydrated.
(What can we say, we have great friends!)
And then we set out, and reality began.
Everything we tried to do in the front country was a fail.
I’ll just graze the tip of the iceberg by saying that the journey which should have taken 22 hours took 32, and by that time, our SUV was toast. If you ever need to buy tranny fluid on a southern trip, just ask us. We know all the good places between North Carolina and Florida.
Somewhere along the line, we met many locals of various character, called 20+ hotels which had no vacancy, made fruit salad and packed gear in the parking lot of a shady auto body shop, and slept overnight outside of Wal-Mart in the canoe trailer.
Not necessarily our customary wilderness trip practices.
We were all thrilled to finally set into the wilderness on Sunday afternoon,
and lay our weary heads down on our squeaking therma-rest mattresses that night at South Joe Chickee. From there on, our journey was a breeze. And I mean literally. The wind was at our backs 80% of the time.
I know Jesus too well for that.
The tides were in our favor, we met dolphins every day, we didn’t get eaten by alligators or pythons, and we didn’t get blown out to sea. Every day brought a gorgeous sunrise and sunset,
every corner brought another spectacular view,
it only sprinkled rain once, and we never lost our way.
Our struggles during our road trip to the Glades gave us a head start in trusting each other…. in being real. No day went by that there wasn’t conflict, struggle, Jesus-words, restoration, and freedom, and celebration among us.
Paddling across the Gulf of Mexico towards the end of our trip, I thought it over. We had come, each of us, from a battle. We had come on assignment, not knowing what lay ahead, or how hard it would be. We didn’t know there would be rest…. but there was.
All I could think of was these words from the Maker.
“The people who were spared from the sword found grace in the wilderness, where I led them to find rest. I have loved you with an everlasting love, that is why I have called you to myself with loving kindness. I will build you up again–you will once again be strong! You will once again be joyful, and join in the dances of those who are carefree. What you plant will bear fruit. Those who realize what is happening will cry, “Let’s spend more time with Jesus–let’s worship the Lord!” (Jeremiah 31:1-7, paraphrased)
And that’s what I love about wilderness. No matter why you come, no matter who you are, Jesus is there. It’s His place to do what He wants, and amaze everyone.
We came, essentially, to work.
But He’s always offering rest.
He’s always offering relationship, restoration, and peace.
And He’s always offering joy.
Who wouldn’t want to receive such a gift?