O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
Over the holidays, Bethany and the kids and I got a bit obsessed with a show that Bethany's parents introduced us to. It's called Alone, hosted by the History Channel. Ten skilled survivalists are dropped in a certain region of the world (miles from each other) and have to survive, completely alone, for as long as they are able. When only one remains, they are notified that they've won. Each person receives a few supplies, a personal video camera, and a beacon to call for pickup. As the days go by, participants tap out for many reasons. Some of them can't catch or forage for enough food, some can't stay warm, others get injured, and others begin thinking about family and the pull toward home becomes too strong. But others find ways to last, day after day, until months go by.
I am enamored with survivalist stories. I'm interested in what drives humanity, and the incredible resilience of the human body and spirit. Add in the beautiful and rugged backdrop of nature and some amazing shelter building skills, and you've got a perfectly binge-worthy show for someone like me.
One profound moment in the show really moved me. In Patagonia, after several weeks of shelter building, eating barely anything, and dealing with rotten weather, the sky finally clears up for one contestant. How wonderful! But after a second day of good weather, Fowler realizes something horrible. He has built his shelter and made his home on a well protected hillside lake. Yet the spot he had chosen was at was unable to receive sunlight. The sun stayed too low and the hillside was too steep. No sun would touch his skin for weeks. This realization was devastating.
“It just can’t get to me, even though it’s all around.” He stared out at the lake in silence, tears welling up in his eyes. “Some parts of this experience are just...so hard."
The sunlight was close to him, yet never touching his skin.
The next day, when Fowler got up, I expected him to get back to fishing and foraging, to keep himself from starving. Every ounce of energy has to be carefully conserved, every activity deeply purposeful.
Instead, he announced to his camera... "I must find sunlight today."
His body was weakened, and he nearly passed out as he climbed the steep mountain behind his lake, burning precious calories. But he was on a quest, to get direct access to the sun. It was crucial for his survival.
Finally, exhausted and faint, Fowler reached a mountainside where the sun was just peeking over a hill. As it hit his arm and face, he just wept.
It may have been the most profound moment in the show.
Interestingly, he would eventually be the last one remaining that season, winning after 87 days alone in extreme wilderness-- even though he spent a whole day's energy just seeking sunlight.
The beginning of the year is a time to think about what is worth spending our time on during the year ahead. It'll have its share of shaded days, without question.
But if we want to survive, seeking places to receive sunlight are crucial. We will constantly be tempted to prioritize everything else. But the deepest sense of our well-being will only come if we seek direct connection to Jesus. The deepest strength to work for healing and goodness in the world will only happen if we access strength from the Spirit of God.
It'll take some seeking-- real, intentional effort. Places of light and goodness can be hard to find sometimes. So can hearing God's voice. But Jesus will meet us as we seek to meet him. It's mystical. It's unexplainable. But it's every bit as important as a paycheck, a roof, or a meal. Experiencing the light of God is what gives us strength and purpose to persevere.
This year, I want to invite you to truly seek the light. Choose to pursue God's goodness and presence, and see how it revitalizes and renews you. You will find new strength to love, and new opportunities to receive love. And you will know that you are genuinely...... never alone.
Jesus, something changes when I seek to encounter you. Draw me into those moments in new ways this year. Amen.