Alone in the Wilderness

by Connie Clay

I sometimes enjoy watching television after supper. It feels good to relax after a day of work. Tonight, my husband, Dennis, and I were weary of the news—all of the fear and all of the distress in our world, caused by a virus we can’t even see. So, I suggested we watch one of our favorite DVDs, called Alone in the Wilderness. It is the rough captured video of a man in his fifties, who left the Midwest to live by himself in Alaska. It seems he needed a change. He lands by plane in the wilderness with some gear and treks over to a mountain cabin owned by a friend, where he will remain until he can get his own cabin built.

Building a cabin. Ponder that. He is alone, except on the rare occasion that a supply plane stops. His neighbors are the grizzly, caribou, and eagle. He has a lake and much untamed wilderness. A previous summer, he had cut down the trees and left them to dry. They are now lighter and easier to maneuver. He begins to build a cabin from the ground up —roof , windows, fireplace made of stones, and even a raised-up place he could hang meat in winter to keep it from bears. I am amazed each time I see this. His attention to details is to be admired. He sharpens his tools constantly because once they get dull, they will not do the job anymore. 

We noticed that he works all day—every day—rising at four a.m. and probably sleeping soundly at dusk from the physically exhausting labor. But on Sundays, he goes hiking, or sets off in his canoe. He sits on a side of a mountain and watches wildlife. He crawls in a bear’s den out of curiosity, stands by a stream, and breathes deep the pristine air. I am sure he has praised his creator there, on those mountains.

I am in awe of the beauty of Alaska and would love to visit it someday. But I do not know how Dick Proenneke could live such an isolated life. Even for an introvert like me, it would take a heap of faith. 

So fast forward to today. We are in the midst of uncharted waters. Corona virus has turned our world upside down. In a world where we have anything we need or want at our fingertips we suddenly find we must do without. In a world where we use each waking moment on weekends to shop the malls, attend sporting events, concerts, and dine out every chance we get, we are told we must stop.

Our schools are closed temporarily while we wait out the course of this virus. Our stores are struggling to keep necessities available. What? No toilet paper? But there are usually thirty multipacks of thirty brands! What? No bread? Why are we suddenly feeling a creepy survival mode setting in? Well I don’t have all the answers, but I know that when the chips are down, some people help you up, and some people take what they can get.

Our president, vice president, governors, and city leaders are all working for our safety. Keeping our distance from others and staying home is not too difficult. We need to keep our elderly people safe while we really don’t know all there is to know about this virus. We can be thankful for the health organizations and all our health care workers. In times like these, we need to remain calm in the middle of the unknown. We need to listen to what our leaders are saying and follow their plan. Aside from that, life goes on. Our children can read books, do puzzles, and play in the yard. We can all be proactive by washing our hands more often, covering sneezes, and keeping our hands-off other people and our faces.

But the most important thing we can do is pray. Pray for God to bless our hospital workers with rest and peace. Pray for other countries, like Italy, where medical personnel are exhausted and there seems to be no end in sight. Pray for Samaritan’s Purse, the Billy Graham organization in Italy helping bring much needed relief. Pray for our churches, schools, and small businesses who will feel the impact economically. And, also, pray for those folks who are not as fortunate as we are. Pray for the elderly, who are more vulnerable to sickness and those with weaker immune systems. We need to turn the focus off ourselves and turn it toward others with love. 

The recent changes to our daily life may be a slight inconvenience for us, but we know that God is in control. He has a plan and though we do not understand it all, we can believe that He will see us through this. 

This is a great time for self-examination. Have we been too busy to pray? Do our words and actions tell others we are believers? Is there gratitude in our hearts for blessings we have? We are so blessed and spoiled we simply may not feel the need to pray. Perhaps this can serve as a wake-up call. God might be saying, “I love you so much. I am going to teach you through this.” 

Search me, oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139:23-24

Our Lord God has a mighty big love for us, doesn’t He?

In my life, there have been occasions where deep fear had set in. It is not a comforting place, as one would expect. And although I do have fears now and then, it seems my fears are less controlling. It’s more like a conscious reason to keep my faith in God strong. I can imagine there were fears for Mr. Proenneke in Alaska all those years. But I have a hunch he was aware of a greater presence, one that cared and watched over him. We don’t have to build a log cabin by ourselves, but we do have to lay a foundation for the children and grandchildren we love. The foundation needs to be sturdy and strong, so it will not give way in the turbulent times we may face in our future. Teaching them to pray, when we are fearful gives them that source of peace and could very well be the most important lesson in their entire lives. Even if we are keeping our distance these days, our heavenly Father is always near. 

Connie is married to Dennis and lives in Blue Earth, Minnesota. She works as a florist at Gartzke’s and enjoys gardening, writing, and spending time with her five grandchildren, three of whom attend Genesis Classical Academy.