Glaciers, Relationships and Religion


Finding a Glacier

“What’s one thing you really want to do in Alaska this summer?” I asked Pedro before our trip started.

“Walk on a glacier,” he replied.

“Awesome! I already have that on my list of fifty fun firsts. Too bad you won’t turn fifty until after we get back,” I teased, “otherwise you could add it to your list.” Of course, I only remembered seeing one glacier in Alaska when I worked there 34 years ago, but Alaska had to have more than one glacier!

Our first weekend in Alaska, our hosts suggested a trip to Kennecott—an old copper mining town at the foot of a glacier. After checking online, I discovered that a short hike would take us to the toe of Root Glacier. Even better, the source said we could just walk out onto the glacier. Perfect!

The National Parks Service owns Kennecott these days, and the surrounding area belongs to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park—the largest National Park in the United States. We arrived a little after noon, and took in two movies at the visitor’s center whilst waiting for the rainstorms to blow over.

Once the rain let up we set off for the glacier. Pedro and Sarah got ahead of me because I kept stopping to snap photos of flowers, waterfalls and ruins tucked into the greenery. In less than a half an hour, we arrived at the bottom of the moraine (a huge pile of rocks that the glacier deposits as it recedes) and the blue ice of the glacier loomed in front of us.

Walking Freely

We passed a tour group learning how to put on crampons, and I watched as Pedro and Sarah scooted up the toe without slipping. It didn’t look too steep, so I headed up after them. I may have even felt a little smug because other people had paid money to walk on a glacier, and we just walked up it with no special equipment. We wandered up at an angle without slipping or sliding. I snapped photos of the incredible colors and miniature crevasses. Once we had our fill of the majesty of the glacier, the mountains and the experience, we headed down.

I turned downhill and started taking tentative, fearful steps. After all, I’ve hit the big five-o and I didn’t want to fall and break a leg or a hip. I started wishing for the crampons and a helmet of a guided tour. “It’s not as slippery as you think!” Sarah called out to me from a hundred yards down glacier.

“Oh, yeah?” I said to myself. “Not slippery? Isn’t all ice slippery?” When I noticed that Pedro had pulled out his iPhone and started recording my old-lady descent, I decided to try walking normally. Sure enough, despite the fact that I walked downhill on ice, my feet stayed firmly under me. I made it to the bottom without landing on my backside.

Not All Glaciers are Created Equal

A week later, we passed the Matanuska Glacier as we drove towards Anchorage. At a nearby lodge, we discovered that just to drive out to the glacier would cost us $50.00 (evidently a private company owns the road that leads out to the glacier, and they charge $25.00 each person). We opted for two slices of the best rhubarb pie in the world and enjoyed the glacier view—content with our previous glacier hike. You can buy a lot of rhubarb pie for $50.00 (I’ll refrain from confirming or denying how much we spent on rhubarb pie over the three weeks we spent in Alaska).

We also wanted to see a glacier that ended in a body of water. I looked around and found a glacier tour to Portage Glacier that would cost a mere $40.00 each. We decided to hike up Portage Pass and view it from afar.

A week later, we decided to check out the Valdez Glacier and discovered that it, too, ended in a lake. We drove our vehicle right up to the shoreline and watched the icebergs float around from the comfort of our car.

Learning from the Ice

Over the course of our trip we saw hundreds of glaciers—each one unique, amazing, awe-inspiring and beautiful. But our favorite glaciers are Root and Valdez—the ones we could access freely and enjoy at our leisure.

Those glaciers remind me of the difference between religion and relationship. God invites each of us into a relationship with him. It costs nothing (for us, anyway) and will inspire and astound us. We only need to seek for ourselves. Having a few friends along to encourage us makes the journey easier.

All too often, religion wants us to experience relationship with God—with a price attached. We must do things a certain way, follow hired guides who dispense advice and rules, worship God in a certain way, and stay with the group.

#Religion wants us to experience relationship with God--with a price attached. Click To Tweet

Don’t misunderstand me—organized worship has its place. Church communities have their place. But first and foremost, we need to remember that God wants us in relationship with HIM—not a particular religion.

A personal relationship with the almighty God may seem daunting—unattainable even. But Psalm 34:8 challenges us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We shouldn’t wait around for religion to heal our hurts and fill our souls. We need to get out on the glacier and discover for ourselves all that God has to offer us.

Learn to seek out experiences with God and nature that don't cost a dime. Click To Tweet

What about you? How do you strive to build a personal relationship with God?

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