Airplane Mode

A cross atop a hill overlooking the John XXIII Retreat Center in Charleston West VirginiaI motored alone to the retreat center in my little orange car, listening to a Selected Shorts podcast to pass the time.

That two hour drive would have been a perfect opportunity to enjoy some silence.

But even in moments that scream silence, I seem to seek out information, distraction, company and noise.

It’s hard for me to unplug.

I had been looking forward to this five day retreat for months.

I’ve had a lot on my mind and this intentional time away from the “real world” seemed just the prescription for me.

I let it be known on social media that I was taking a several day “time out” and vowed to separate myself from such daily distractions for the duration. Photo of a person giving the "time out" signal

I got a little (divine?) help with that vow.

My cell phone provider had pretty much zero service at this retreat center, even though the center is located just a few blocks from a major highway through our state’s capitol city.

Who would have thought?

Other than complicating communication with my husband and son, it was a welcome circumstance. It would be much easier to keep my vow than I expected!

But I still wanted to use my phone for one of its primary functions – telling me the time. And I wanted to be able to snap the occasional picture.

So, I put my phone on “airplane mode.” It would still tell me the time and the camera would be available…but it wouldn’t keep trying to connect with the outside world to constantly pull down tweets, emails and text messages.

Screen capture from an iPhone - airplane mode icon - with the time of 8:13 and a nearly full battery.

Guess what?

My phone battery, which usually needs charged every day or at least every two days, kept nearly a full charge all week.


That’s right.

Blocking out the constant stream of tweets, emails and text messages meant my phone battery lasted longer.

And I was finding out that the same was true for my own physical battery as well.

Putting my life on “airplane mode” was revving me up and keeping me grounded.

The timing was perfect.

I went to the retreat, in part, to contemplate what my focus should be.

This past year I have made moves – some deliberate and some unanticipated – to pursue personal writing goals and to put more focus on family.

That’s what I feel called to do. Photo of a hand poised over paper with a pen - with stark shadows on the paper. Books and a highlighter can be seen in the upper part of the photo.

But I have had several opportunities come my way for full time outside employment.

The opportunities introduced elements of doubt.

I know I’ve decided not to look for a job right now…but am I crazy to pass up the ones that have found me?

Especially if the jobs are things I enjoy doing?

Last week’s quiet time helped me confirm and affirm my choice to spend my energies and place my focus on my personal writing and the home front.

My week spent in literal and figurative airplane mode gave me the 30,000-foot-big-picture perspective and the distance from the day-to-day I needed.

The silence of airplane mode yielded a peace with my decision.

Of course every airplane must land.

I’m back to the “real world.”

My battery is charged.

My focus is clear.

I feel grounded.

And – once in a while – when the focus gets fuzzy and I need to find some silence, I know I can slip into “airplane mode” to stay that way.

Banner for Academy for Spiritual Formation - a program of Upper Room Ministries. The image is of Elisha receiving Elijah's mantle.

Banner for Academy for Spiritual Formation depicting Elisha receiving Elijah’s mantle.


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