Last week, Stephen and I flew to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands to shoot a destination wedding. Before leaving for the trip, we had project after project after project to complete for our design business, REmix Design & Media. We had many 5am nights just trying to keep up with it all. We were neglecting friendships. We were eating for convenience, not healthy fuel. We weren’t setting aside time for quiet time with the Lord. We were literally like robots going from bed to desk, a few kitchen breaks to grab the closest food, back to desk, then to bed. For weeks we didn’t have any quality time, and our relationship had become nothing more than business partners trying to get done as much as we could. When we started this journey with REmix, we cast our nets out in faith that God would fill it, and didn’t expect the abundance that He filled in our nets. It was almost too much than we could keep up with. We were beyond stressed trying to keep up with it all and keep our clients happy, that we lost track of the most important thing… keeping ourselves happy and our marriage healthy grounded in keeping God first.
So when we got to St. John, and breathed in the air of paradise, we knew, we needed to turn this business trip into a personal marriage retreat as well and stay a few days longer than expected. We knew that if we didn’t get our priorities back in order, we were going to slowly deteriorate when we returned.
Our first thing to address? Get off social media. Following the wedding, we made a pact to not Instagram until we got back. Yes, we were in paradise and wanted to share every glorious sunset and ocean landscape. Yes, we worried Facebook would crash if we didn’t check in at least 500 times a day. Yes, our businesses might fail if we didn’t address clients email with in the 24 hour period we normally try to. But we were willing to take that risk in order to simply….. breathe. And de-stress. And get our priorities back in order. Sometimes you just have to take a stance for what’s truly important.
So without advertising it to the world, we took adventures both on sea and land. We snorkeled. We swam with nurse sharks, and sting rays and petted sea turtles who swam along side us. We walked around the quiet little town of St. John holding hands and dancing in the streets because we could. And though we had cell service, we left our phones in the hotel room. Because really, what was most important were the memories we were creating, not the buzz of the phone telling us we had a new text/email/social media update from somebody else pulling at us.
We also used this time to discuss changes we were going to make upon returning. One of them was creating what we call our “S&S Guidelines For Sanity”. Previously, we saw this floating around Instagram through our own wedding photographers and other friends, and we knew we had reached our breaking point of needing to do the same. This guidelines sheet, now on our fridge, includes things like NORMAL business hours, which yes, for us means getting up earlier and going to bed earlier AND shutting the office door behind us when it’s time to stop work at 6pm. It also includes the simple things like taking time for bike rides to clear our head on a daily basis. And making dinner together, not just scouring up something from the fridge individually and plopping in front of the TV to eat. Or worse, eating dinner at our desk because we just can’t say no to our computers.
We know it’s so normal to let work rule your life, especially for us, as a husband and wife who work together. But yet…. we want something more than the normal. We know it’s easy to stay in the comfortable, doing what every one does, letting the rat race consume their everything and work success be their greatest treasure. But what we learned in the midst of our snorkeling adventures is that the greatest treasure is not along the shore in the safety zone where everyone else hangs out. It’s in the part that requires you to leave the safety of the shore and swim out to the quiet reefs in the middle of nowhere.
One of our adventures in St. John took us to a place only the locals know about. While St. John is made up of lots of gorgeous bays, and most are public for the average tourist, we kept asking locals where the best snorkeling spot was, and that was Waterlemon Cay. Yet, to get there, it’s about a half hour walk down a private trail from where you park. Then, once you arrive at the beach, you have to walk over the rocky sand to get to the water to swim. Then, to experience the best part, you have to swim out over the deep blue out to a small tiny tiny island (or what they call a “cay”), and that’s where you will find all the beautiful reefs, fish and other majestic glories God created.
As I looked at the trail of the unknown ahead of me walking to this random beach, I didn’t know if I had it in me to walk all that way just to snorkel.
Once we arrived, and I looked at how far the cay was from where we had to start our swim, I didn’t know if I had it in me to swim all that way.
As we began our swim, and all I saw was deep blue underneath me, all I could think was “Please Lord, don’t let us see a shark.”
As Stephen and I paused half way in the midst of our swim, we questioned if the long swim was worth it. Especially, with no lifeguard on duty, it probably wasn’t the smartest choice. What if one of us got a cramp, got stung by a jelly fish/sting ray/eaten by a shark (my mind always goes to worst case scenerio naturally)? Yet, we reached out our hands, and held each other up and kept swimming alongside each other with encouragement and faith that after all we heard about this cay, that it would be worth leaving our safety zone.
Then we arrived. And the deep blue turned into detail. Colorful detail. Textured detail. Spotted detail. Moving detail. We saw the beauty of the coral, and a rainbow of thousands of fish swimming all around us as if we were just one big fish amongst them. We saw one magnificent creature after another including hundreds of giant starfish I had never seen before. We saw this crazy amazing world that lives beyond what our eye can see when looking out into the water or above from an airplane. It was simply breathtaking. And that doesn’t even begin to describe it.
And had we stayed on the shore, we would have missed all that. Had we chosen comfort and to not go against the normal, we would have missed the greatest treasure of all. And like our marriage and the norm of busy lives, we knew it was time to make changes against what had become our norm before we missed out on the greatest treasures ahead of us in the years to come.
This morning, I read in a new devotion book I’m reading, “A Sudden Glory,” about a very similar parallel that I just had to share here:
“Passion comes easy during those years when youths dive into the sea of new discoveries with reckless abandon. But as we surface to breathe in the air of adulthood, we tend to float along the current of Christianity and swim in the school of other like-minded saints. That’s not a bad place to be. It is safe. But it is the bold and the brave who venture from the saintly swarm, venture into the deep sea of grace, and explore the depths of God’s fathomless wonder. Treasures in the deep are waiting to be discovered by those willing to leave the surface and plunge headlong into God’s all-encompassing presence.”
We’re plunging headlong this week to take steps toward change. What changes do you need to make as well so that you don’t miss God’s greatest treasures ahead of you?
Here’s a little bit of the beauty we saw in Waterlemon Cay. All images shot with our GoPro Hero 3 camera.