Recently my wife and I have been watching Alaskan survival shows on TV. We especially like the one about a competition between three teams: ultra-athletes, ex-military men, and mountain men. These guys race over treacherous terrain. They trek over jagged mountains, through icy rivers and deep, dense forests. They encounter rain, wind, snow and cold; hunger, fear and…bears! Their objective in each challenge is to survive for two and a half days in the unforgiving Alaskan environment with nothing more than what they carry in their backpacks.
A couple other shows involve people, who are moving to, or are already living in the Alaskan back country, -America’s last frontier. Some inhabit crude cabins with no electricity, no running water, and no phones –virtually no connection to the outside world, except for a narrow path or an isolated beach, which means a long hike, snowmobile ride, or boat ride to the next rural town or village.
I find an attraction to these rugged individuals; they brave the most extreme circumstances to be on their own, to do their own thing, to be masters of their domain. They have access to amazing vistas of snow-capped mountain ranges, rushing rivers teeming with wild salmon; and beautiful lush landscapes as far as the eye can see. They’re in a kind of treacherous paradise, and truly living off the grid.
Bonnie and I have no such ruggedness within us. We do like to camp-out at a state park in our tent -with a water and electric connection close by. But off the grid? Using an outhouse in the middle of an Alaskan blizzard? The swarming bat-sized mosquitoes in the summer; the bitingly cold long dark winter months; and the bears… I imagine cabin fever setting in for us, in about a week or two into November, and there might be a dead body to thaw-out come June. But it’s a vicarious treat to watch these folks live their way of life, off civilization’s grid. However, it also reminds me of the times when I spiritually, stray off of God’s grid.
Interestingly I sometimes do this when things are going so well. There’s money in the bank, food in the fridge, warm sunny days, smooth sailing, and all is well with the world. At times like these, I can forget God is part of those good times. I’m large and in charge, on top of the world, and who needs God? I’m living on my own grid; doing things Frank Sinatra style: My Way.
Isn’t that the essence of original sin? It’s the sin of Adam and Eve as told in Genesis. It’s the sin of saying, “God, I don’t need you. I can do this by myself. I can make my own choices and decisions based on what I think are right. I’m going to rely on myself to decide.”
And then, when I’ve put myself out there on that rugged frontier, all by myself, with only my backpack filled with self-satisfaction and an attitude of, I can do this myself, darkness and gloom inevitably comes along. I get a little panicky, –money is running tight, the house payment is late, I’ve lost another big account, my kid’s had a car wreck, a close friend is diagnosed with cancer, and I wonder, “Where’s God? Why have you abandoned me?” Even though I’m the one who cut off the lines of communications; I’m puzzled as to why I don’t hear his voice, or feel his presence. Hey God, where’d you go? I really need you right now. It can get pretty cold and lonely out there lost in that spirit-less wilderness.
And so I pray based on these experiences of spending time on top of the world, and then in the spiritual frozen tundra. It’s a prayer for me and for all those on my prayer list. It’s based on this experience of living spiritual highs and lows, outside of God’s presence.
I’m praying for the miracle that each person and I are looking for –and we all need some kind of miracle in our lives; a healing, a closure, security, forgiveness, intimacy with God.
I pray that we feel the presence of God as we wait and journey to that miracle. And then, whatever that miracle may be, I pray that we will enjoy that miracle with God. I don’t want to see the miracles in my life, and then not enjoy them with God. I want to avoid stumbling through the darkened forest of doubt, or to sit on the high peaks of self satisfaction only to find myself faltering, and staggering perilously close to a cliff. I’m trying to stay on God’s grid and avoid those mamma grizzlies prowling around in the dark. That kind of thing is great entertainment on TV, but clearly no fun in real life.
God, help keep me to stay connected to you; let’s enjoy this adventure together. Amen.