For His Glory

A 4-hour drive to Washington, D.C.

An 11-hour flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A 3.5-hour flight to Ushuaia.

A 2.5-day ship expedition across the Drake Passage.

A 7am wake up call came over the intercom system from the hotel manager aboard our ship, “Good morning and welcome to Antarctica!” The ship was finally protected by land and moving slowly. The engine murmured instead of roared. The harsh beating of the waves against the ship was now just a slosh. The rhythmic motion of the cabin bed curtains opening and closing stopped. Personal items were silent in the drawers. Best of all, we crawled out of bed, stood up, and walked around the cabin as we got ready for breakfast. We stood. We walked. It had been two days since we were able to accomplish these tasks without risking injury. After so many long days of travel, we had finally arrived at one of the most remote places in the world. Why hello, Antarctica.

By 10am we had dressed in three layers of clothing, put on our waterproof boots and our self-inflatable life jackets, and stepped onto the ship’s gangway in order to board a zodiac for our first landing on Antarctica.

Antarctica is another planet, except that it’s not. I inhale its air for the first time. It reminds me of fresh, crisp mountain air that I have tasted before, but there is a purity and flavor here that is set apart. A wall of snow hundreds of feet high hides the base of the mountains in front of me. There are no rolling foothills, just peaks that dramatically burst into the sky. Nothing is gradual or subtle here. The peaks of the mountains come in and out of view as the clouds and fog shift. The weather was quite the story-teller throughout the trip, creating complex, unpredictable, mysterious stories with the sun and clouds and rain. Nothing is simple or plain here.

About ten of us load onto a zodiac. Sitting in our inflatable boat, I look up. We are a blip next to the ship. We are a speck of dirt next to Antarctica. This scale, this vastness, this incomprehensible beauty cannot possibly exist on Earth, but it does. I literally feel unworthy in its presence, insignificant and blemished by comparison. Why am I allowed to experience this?

As we head to land, my autonomic nervous system shuts down. Every breath, every swallow, every action that would otherwise occur involuntarily now needs to be cued. No words can pass my lips even if I try. Blood rushes to every capillary, drawn to Antarctica like a magnet. Not one part of my body wants to be internal in this moment. Every cell and every organ put their jobs on hold to help me process this moment, this place. This? This is what it means to be arrested. This is Antarctica.

Of course my organs resumed normal function after this first encounter with the continent, but the awe never waned throughout the trip. I never felt like I could fully absorb the grandeur of the mountains, the snow, the sky, the wildlife, and the ice.

In the past eight or so years, only thirty to forty thousand people from around the world have visited Antarctica each year. That’s about six ten-thousandths of a percent of the world’s population per year. It’s too expensive, too remote, and too harsh to draw more visitors. Our reaction to this was, “What a waste.” What a waste for such an indescribable, arresting creation to be hidden from so many.

Then I remembered the purpose of creation. Ultimately, it was made to bring glory to God. It doesn’t matter if forty million, forty thousand, or four people experience this grandeur. The mountains proclaim, the ice sculptures reveal the glory of God. “Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious” (Psalm 66: 1-2).

I am his creation, too. I was made to bring him glory. It doesn’t matter if my sphere of influence includes millions, thousands, or no one, my purpose is to be sold out for him. To love him and to praise him when everyone is watching and when no one is watching. “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31). When people live for God with reckless abandon, it is the most beautiful, the most mysterious, the most arresting of all creation.

Treating the Cancer

First and foremost, the violent act and the loss of life in the recent Arizona shootings are a tragedy. I weep with those who have lost loved ones and with those who have serious injuries to overcome. May God keep you tightly in His Grip and give you a peace and comfort that surpass your understanding.

Yesterday I found myself commenting on another blog (something I don’t do often), offering a sliver of my perspective on the latest controversy with the Arizona shooting. The dialogue got me involved enough to conjure up my own post. The claim in the news is that violent, divisive rhetoric from the Republican political party is to blame for the shooting. Just a few (of many) thoughts I have on this…

First, if you search for assassinations and attempted assassinations of U.S. Presidents, it is clear that both Republicans and Democrats have been victims to this heinous act. This is not a partisan issue.

Second, many of these acts occurred long before Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, and Glenn Beck even existed. This is not a current issue.

Zeal on this matter is warranted, however I believe the current attention in the media is misdirected. We all believe something wrong has occurred and we want justice, but to blame things like violent rhetoric is a distraction from a more central dilemma. There is a conflict within us all — we want to see fairness and justice and “good,” but we have the incapability (neither as a race nor as individuals) to perfectly uphold this standard. This want for good yet inability to be perfectly good, if not dealt with, becomes restless within us.

For many people, it is an unresolved conflict, and it’s much easier to blame some surfacey problem than to address the crux of the issue. If politicians will just speak more kindly about each other than this wouldn’tve happened. If we banned violent movies and video games then there would be no crime. If we were more educated about mental illnesses (which the shooter was believed to have) then all will be well. Stricter gun laws will bring world peace.

No, no, no, and no. These may help reduce crime rates temporarily, but these will not fix the core issue. Treating abdominal pain with a pain pill seems rather foolish if the root cause of the pain is cancer. The pill may offer temporary relief, but to ignore the underlying disease would be fatal.

We are in a predicament. We understand there is some moral code, some Golden Rule, that we cannot bear to see violated, yet we ourselves are incapable of perfectly upholding it. None of us on our own are capable of being perfectly good.

After you peel back all of the culpable layers, this core dilemma pervasive throughout humanity is the cause of the tragic Arizona shooting. The shooter fell way short of the standard. And even though it might seem like our blunders aren’t nearly as shameful as his, the truth is we all fall short of the standard too. No, a pain pill will not treat this cancer.