In September I had the pleasure of another first: the first time leading a group of adults into the Boundary Waters (BWCA) for a week-long canoeing experience. I am used to the fast paced and socially drenching experience of leading teenagers. At that age, one’s priorities tend to revolve around immediate relationships and often there is an element of “I might be a little too cool to show I am having a good time.” If you work with teenagers, you know what I mean. But on this trip, the ages ranged from 21 years up to 82, and presented with different developmental needs. Our group represented many generations in multiple life stages.
One day we decided to stay at camp knowing a storm would arrive in the afternoon. The morning was spent in a silent retreat on our little island. Some read their journals to reflect upon scripture and the world around them, one fished, while others took a silent walk to observe nature. At lunch, just before the wind set in, we gathered under our tarp to share our experiences. “I spent an hour watching eagles hunting their prey,” one said. “I just listened to the wind in the trees and noticed how differently it sounds against the needles or leaves,” said another. “I prayed and read scripture,” said one more. The richness of two hours of silence in the wilderness was evident in our group conversations. We talked and laughed through most of the afternoon as the rain drove sideways and the temperature plummeted.
Whenever I am privileged to travel with people through the wilderness, it’s a personal experience. We live together in close proximity for a week and depend upon each other for every aspect of daily life. It’s a team effort. What surprised me about this group was their gratitude and thanksgiving. Not an hour went by without someone praising God for the opportunity to enjoy His creation as well delight in the company of our fellow travelers. The weather didn’t bother them; they were too thrilled to be in this wild and wonderful place. The group had a lot of unstructured time but made the best of it, even when they had to hunker down in camp for long stretches. Their way of coexisting was unique, and it made me think of this scripture from Job:
I thought age should speak, advanced years should teach wisdom – Job 32:7
This week could have been a bummer for some of us; cold, wet, sunless. Yet the disposition of each group member held more power than the great rains that pummeled us. It was their spirits that brought warmth, gladness, and joy. Through thankful hearts, the Holy Spirit made itself known to us.
Can you imagine what life could be like if we brought glad hearts full of patience and gratitude to our everyday storms and terrible gales? Can you imagine what the Holy Spirit could do with this kind of faithfulness? Leave it to only the wisest of us to live so boldly, earnestly, and richly. May we take this Holy teaching to heart.
Grace and Peace,