I have a new TV “reality” show that I’m addicted to, “Ultimate Survival Alaska” on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday evenings at 9pm (EST). I’m also watching the first season on Hulu which features eight intrepid, independent Alaskan men who each bring different skill sets to the table. They are forced to brave the Alaskan wilderness without tents, with no cellphones or GPS systems or other modern convenience on a 10-leg trek where they will be cold, wet, and hungry, and facing the real possibility of serious injury or even death. These guys don’t have any stunt men to take over the difficult stuff like jumping across bottomless crevasse or crossing a fast-moving river where the water is just above freezing. Each leg covers some of the most brutal and rugged terrain in Alaska with no roads, no motels or restaurants. The only food is what you catch, the only fire is the one you make, the only protection from the wind and rain is the shelter you build. These eight men are in a head-to-head battle for perseverance. They have just 72 hours to complete each leg of the journey.
These 8 men have suffered instances of hypothermia, nasty falls, and numerous encounters with bears for sixty days. One of te scariest moments comes when Marty’s son, Matt, is paddling alone in a kayak on a 40-mi stretch of Prince William Sound and suddenly disappears. Marty and his companion Tyler head for shore to build a fire, sending up a cloud of smoke as well as firing several rounds from a gun and still no sign of Matt. The next day, almost 24 hours since their last sight of Matt, they find his two water bottles hanging on a small ice glacier, but no sign of Matt. This is a scary moment. Has Matt’s kayak tipped over? It’s at this point that Tyler has to talk Marty down to reality assuring him that their best bet is to get to their extraction zone and if Matt is not there, they can then organize a search party.
As a father, Marty fears the worst, yet hopes that his son is ok. After almost three days since they last sighting of Matt, Marty and Tyler are rounding a bend of rock, to their extraction zone (the LZ) where they will be picked up by a boat. Marty’s heart is pounding and he says, “I pray Matt’s there. I pray Matt’s there.”
And sure enough, they spot Matt waving to them from the boat which has been sent to pick them up on this leg of the journey. Marty, who says he’s not a hugger, gives his son the biggest bear hug, and says such a huge load has been lifted off his shoulders, knowing that his son is safe and sound.
I’m watching Marty as he’s anxious, worried and fearful over what might might have happened to his son. I’m almost screaming at him to pray. Pray Marty. Pray and ask God to protect your son and show you where he is. But prayer doesn’t enter the picture at all on any of these episodes. Sad to say, I’m afraid that these manly men are self-sufficient and have no real knowledge of the One who created all the beauty and majesty that they encounter in Alaska, not to mention the One who gives them their own breath of life and sustains them daily and answers prayers and cries for help.
There are numerous instances where I would think that they would be calling out to Jesus for help, direction, safety, protection, etc. but that never happens. There are moments when I would think that they would be thanking and praising the Lord for getting them through difficult circumstances, but they always seem to chalk it up to “good luck” or their own skills and ingenuity. These men love the creation, but they are clueless concerning the Creator Himself.
I’m not being critical of these guys. I like all eight of them and they’re special men, manly men, a rare breed in this day and age. If the U.S. ever suffered a cataclysmic disaster or attack left us without electricity, gas, no food, etc., these are the kind of men I’d want to link up with because they know how to live off the land. In the truest sense of the word, they are “survivors.”
However, my prayer is that they might come to know the Lord who loves them and died for them so that they could experience more than just the beauty of Alaska, and have even greater purpose in their lives–that they might live their lives for the glory of Almighty God, the One who created them and all the awesome splendor of Alaska.