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Making Room for the Spirit

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So that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:27)

One of the most meaningful times in my life was spent in the Boundary Waters Canoe area in Northern Minnesota and Canada. It was hard work, paddling, portaging, and setting up and tearing down camp each day. At home, I would have bellyached about being worked so hard. But in the wild, with the fresh air, I never felt so alive. The food tasted better, and even the bad coffee was the best I’ve ever had. When I opened a Bible, the words came alive in ways they didn’t seem to in my bedroom at home. Why?

I’ve thought of this often. What makes the experience of being in such rough wilderness so enlivening? In part, most of the world’s cares were left at the car. When you are canoeing a distance each day, your focus is on a few simple things: what hurts, when is it time to eat, and how far to the next portage. Simple, but freeing! Only when life becomes freed from distractions can one experience the fullness of God’s glory in your life.

The last time I was canoeing the Boundary Waters was in 1983, before my back surgeries. Now, fast forward to 2020. I felt the pull of distractions, and this was before the cell phone or even the personal computer. Young people now have more distractions than I could have imagined when I was in high school and college. This is why everyone needs the opportunity to get away and experience life freed from distractions. Why not just lock yourself in your room, without a phone and the internet disconnected? That would feel too much like prison. Getting into the woods and including the physical exertion is part of what makes the experience spiritual.

Today, seek to find your own means of leaving distractions behind for a time. Invite God to join you on your journey. Whether it is paddling a canoe, riding a bike, or taking long walks, make sure to exert yourself physically, so your body is tired enough to make room for the Spirit. The most important part about your journey is doing the necessary planning, so everyone knows you are going off the grid. Making life simple, by leaving its trappings, makes room for the Spirit. If life is getting cold and empty, get in a canoe, on a bike, or lace up your walking shoes. Get off the grid and make room for the Spirit, and watch life come alive again.