There are many things that come to mind when someone mentions Alaska. Among them are snow, mountains, cold weather, dark nights, endless days, northern lights, moose, Klondike gold rush, and sled dogs. Perhaps other things like glaciers, whales, bald eagles, and salmon come to mind. There were two things that I was not anticipating finding in Alaska, things that I associate with warmer climates.
One was the rainforests that are found in southeast Alaska along the inside passage. Somehow I associate rain forests with South America and the vast areas surrounding the Amazon river. But there in the cooler climates of Alaska is a large area of intense rainfall and tall trees. Here’s the amazing thing, those tall trees have super shallow roots. The soil above the bedrock only being a few inches to a few feet deep yet the Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock grows close to 200 feet tall. They stand because of their interlocking roots.
The second surprise was the large and colorful flowers found in Skagway and Anchorage. These are not hothouse flowers put out for the benefit of tourists but are grown and gardened in the same way we do here in central Illinois. From what I’ve seen the size and amount of blooms surpasses that of the best that I’ve seen from where the corn grows tall. Why? The soil is not remarkable, in fact, it is probably less fertile than the black loam of the prairies. The growing season is also much shorter than what we are accustomed to experiencing in the lower 48. The difference is the amount of light. During Alaska’s short spring and summer they receive up to 17 hours of daylight and even night is never dark enough to see heaven’s stars. It is the sunlight that makes all the difference.
These two surprises from Alaska also to apply to our walk with Christ. The book of Ephesians commands us to “stand firm.” “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,” (Ephesians 6:11, 13–14, NASB95) While God will supply strength to stand alone, His larger plan is for us to stand together. To interlink our roots so that we support each other and grow tall. “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NASB95) By caring for each other, encouraging each other, loving each other, correcting each other, building up each other, and supporting one another we all can grow tall and fruitful in the His kingdom.
The example of Skagway and Anchorage’s flowers also speak to us about growth. Their encouragement is to soak in as much “sonshine” as possible. How much do you desire to be in God’s light? Two-three minutes a day? A couple hours on Sunday? Every now and again? The flowers of Alaska remind us that the more we spend time in the Son the larger, brighter, and more vibrant we will grow. Consider Paul’s exclamation, “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:13–16, NASB95) The difference between us and the flowers of Alaska is that we can choose when and where we will abide in the light of Jesus Christ. Not only are we to receive light but we are also to give light. Just like the flowers in Anchorage gives glory to their city, our blooms, our light, gives glory to God. Consider Jesus words from the sermon on the mount, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NASB95)
Therefore stand firm, not alone, but interconnected with one another. Seek to live in the light of Christ 24/7 and shine that light on those in our world. Your world may not be perfect, your soil may not be deep or the best, but in these ways, we can grow in Christ to the glory of God.