For the third consecutive year, I have confirmed with my own eyes that there are no pythons in the Everglades. Or, at the very least, that there are no pythons around when I am there. I have spent three years (OK, really only three days a year for three years) searching for the elusive invasive reptile amongst the vast marshes of South Florida. It has, at times, seemed to be more likely to find a skunk ape (our Florida version of the sasquatch) than an actual python, but I have not been inclined to give up the quest.
The main reason for continuing to return is that there is openness and natural beauty in the Everglades that is hard to find anywhere else in Florida except on open water. It is quite a thing to camp under the stars and hear nothing but the sounds of nature—the conversational chorus of gators complemented by the steady unceasing hum of mosquitos. I go each year to be in nature and to experience the beauty of creation. I go to get away.
This year, two things happened that disrupted that experience. First, one of our boats caught on fire (no, not the boat I built). Second, we accidentally became entrapped and entangled in a mass of tourists and day-trippers. This proved to be far more demoralizing than the boat fire…
There is something that is lost in the experience when you think you are surviving in an untouched wilderness while hunting a reptilian terror, only to stumble on a retired couple from Massachusetts (just guessing their state of origin) who are taking their sweet time photographing everything in sight, seeming to miss all the signs of their not being welcome in my wilderness (signs include bison jerky and swamp water breath, general dirtiness, multiple bladed weapons, and my polite but mild aloofness). These were not the only people who encroached on “our” Everglades and robbed us of the illusion of isolation. There were young men taking their ladies out for a day on the water. There were fathers taking their sons fishing for the day. There were guys driving their mid-life crises past us at 80 mph so they could get to their fishing spot sooner. It seemed for a while that there would be no possibility of regaining serenity and quiet.
The reality is that people often mess up our plans. They slow us down, get in our way, and generally complicate things. We have a sense for how our day, our week, or our life should go, and then people enter the picture and our plans have to bend and adjust or get placed aside altogether.
That perspective, however, gets humbled and matured when you look at the life of Jesus. This man, who had three years of active ministry in which to begin ushering in His Father’s Kingdom, build a following of future leaders to carry on His work, challenge long-held beliefs in the world around Him, demonstrate His divinity through signs and wonders, take the punishment of all our sins so that we could receive grace, and set in course the events that would change the entire world because of His life, seemed always to have time for people. In fact, it seemed that most often His agenda didn’t have to bend to accommodate people; His agenda _was_ people. Jesus changed the world while simultaneously taking time for children, outcasts, the rich, the poor, the confused, the lost, the hurting, and those who were alone.
For an introvert like myself, this is a valuable reminder. There is little I can do that will add value to the world around me that does not directly involve being in the lives of people—my family, my friends, my church, my neighbors.
So upon returning from the Everglades, showered and shorn, I have begun to think about next year’s trip and my strategy to go deeper in the wilds of America’s largest wetlands. In the meantime, however, I have a year’s worth of people to love, to invest in, to receive from, and to follow God together with, and I couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead. This year, my plans are people...