Alaskan adventure strengthens connection with divine

It was our seventh day backpacking in the trail-less back country of Denali National Park in Alaska when we were awakened by the early morning sunrise in Wolverine Creek. It was going to be our biggest push yet — 9 miles to exit — so we needed an early start.

The cloudless, blue skies welcomed our early departure from camp.

The previous six days were the thoroughly definitive Alaskan experience — bears, glaciers, bushwacking, territorial and aggressive antelopes, torrential rains, river crossings, and 40-degree temperatures, but even more, brilliant views, wild blueberries by the millions, mountain ranges too vast and too numerous to have even been named, and an absolute solitude devoid of any human activity, communicative technology, noise pollution or even a single, stray aircraft.

Each labored step up the 60-degree sloped talus, which consisted of loose, softball-sized ankle busters, was aided by our trekking poles and closely accompanied by our heavy breathing. But ever so subtly, sneaking up on us westward, rising higher and higher with every foot of elevation gained, was the mighty, snow-adorned Denali in all her glory.

Only seconds before, our breath was taken by strenuous activity and reduced oxygen level.

But now, our collective breath was taken by sheer majesty.

As we reached the top of Eielson, no words were spoken, as if each of us already knew what to do and what the others were thinking. There was a shared solemnity, a communal rite of the sacred and holy.

And along the ridge line we drifted apart, equidistant, to sit and stare and marvel and contemplate the beauty, to drink in the magnificence. It was an indescribably humbling, awe-inspiring and deeply spiritual moment, quite certainly the most spiritual experience of my life.

There was a familial union, an unbreakable bond between me, the creation and the Creator. There birthed a moment of singularity between heaven and earth, of the two becoming miraculously one. The invitation was a present taste of that for which we always have desperately longed, and have continued to expectantly anticipate, in all it’s fullness, at the consummation of the ages.

My Lord, my God.

The truth is that we always were meant for perfect peace and perfect union with the Creator and the creation.

And while there is a deep groaning as we await liberation from the curse, there is a perfect peace and a perfect union into which we can enter, a life into which we can presently reside, that is, not just at peace with God, but at peace with all of creation.

It is a place of shalom, a place of tranquility, completeness and harmony with all things.

But I am afraid that the forces of our present age are actually fracturing us into successive degrees of separation from this place of shalom.

And it is evident in our busyness, in our technological attachments, in our substance abuse and addictions, in our over-consumption, in our willingness to exploit people and natural resources for finite and temporary gains, and in our utter obsession with the superficial to the neglect of our spirit.

We are quickly becoming a people without a soul, a people pretending to be alive but who are dying from the inside-out. And this death is manifesting around us as we continue to neglect the ever-present invitation to life in the Spirit.

We were created to be so much more than the lives for which we have settled.

We were created for:

Lives that are exceedingly full and abundant in love for all things

Deep and meaningful relationships with God, with our brothers and sisters of the world and with all of creation

Tasting and experiencing the wonders and joys of this precious life

Thanksgiving for God’s daily provision

Being good stewards of the animals and the land

Joining all of creation in praise

Being in shalom with the Creator and his good creation

We were created for so much more.

And it doesn’t take a mountain high in the back country of Alaska to discover this, for our eyes to be opened, for our hearts to come alive (even though Alaska may certainly help).

All you have to do is walk outside and take a deep breath and accept the invitation.

Disconnect from all that enslaves you. Leave behind all that binds you and keeps you on the periphery and circumference of this life. Break free from your attachments and addictions. Turn off your phone, shut down your computer, power down your tablet, put them in the cabinet and go outside.

You are entering sacred and holy space.

Do you recognize it?

Do you see it?

Do you hear it?

Do you feel it?

Lie in the grass under a shade tree, feel the cool blades of grass beneath your fingers, let the wind blow over you. Meditate on the sounds of the birds and the swaying of the leaves on every branch of the tree. Consider every single detail of the rough bark on the tree and all of the busy insects moving hastily through every deep groove. Contemplate the love and beauty and artistry within each thing. And how that love surrounds you and how that love holds you and how that love invites you.

Spirit, come!

Is this not humbling?

Is this not awe-inspiring?

Is this not miraculous?

Is this not deeply and profoundly spiritual?

Is this love not embracing you and holding you and enveloping you? Is this love of the Creator not calling your soul to greater breadths and depths? Is this love not what your heart has always desired?

This is the present taste of all we desperately long for in it’s fullness one day, and all we continue to expectantly and patiently anticipate in our future.

But it is also that which is always right here, in front of us, waiting to be discovered. For those who seek it, will surely find it.

It is good.

Brandon Andress of Columbus is a former local church leader, a current iTunes podcast speaker and a contributor to the online Outside the Walls blog. He can be reached at his website at