This past week, Traci and I took her parents to see the massive ice blocks on Lake Michigan. The view is hard to describe, but imagine that God has a giant box of building blocks all made out of ice, and that he took that box and dumped it over the 22,394 square miles of Lake Michigan. Of course, if they are God’s building blocks, they are HUGE blocks, and that’s what we took Traci’s parents to see. The amazing ice formations are drawing national attention again (something similar happened last year) and everyone in the area is talking about them. So on a beautiful and sunny Friday afternoon, you’d think the place would be packed. Instead, in the main area of ice block where we visited, I don’t think I saw a dozen people spread out over the miles of ice we could see. Why would so few people get out to the ice?
I have a thought: because it’s so hard to get to them!
When we parked our van and stepped out into the 20 degree winter air, I warned my in-laws that the wind on the Lake would be significant. We had bundled up before we left the house, but Traci and I started putting on our gloves, cinching down our hats, zipping up coats to the chin and generally preparing for Winter-geddon. I think my in-laws thought we were a little crazy, because where we were standing was actually pleasant. With a 20-degree temp (18 degrees warmer than the previous day’s high!), the sun shining and the breeze just gently blowing, it was hard to imagine that when we stepped out of the tree line, about 100 yards away, we’d be slapped by Old Man Winter!
Then we took the first step onto the shoreline and the wind smacked us from the south. It stung, and we had just stepped on the frozen sand! 30 feet later we were on the frozen waters of Lake Michigan and now we were fully exposed to the gusting wind. And that was only half the problem, because now we were walking in 6-8” snow drifts that were covering the very uneven ice on the shallower parts of the Lake.
While we could see God’s giant ice block collection in front of us, we had to cover a 1/3 mile of this uneven frozen ground to get there! (Basically, think of a small wave rolling into shore, and then freezing while it’s still in wave form, or as it crashes on another wave or on the shore. That’s what the surface of the lake is like in the parts closer to shore that you have to cross in order to get to God’s ice blocks.) About half way out, the wind picked up its intensity and the ground became increasingly difficult to walk on. I’ve never been drunk, but I imagine I looked like a drunk man stumbling around looking for my lost car!
After about 20 minutes of walking/hiking/stumbling we arrived at these beautiful ice structures. The actual view is hard to put into words, and the pictures we took don’t do it justice. The whole area looked like NY City after Godzilla destroyed all the buildings and uprooted the roads. There wasn’t a piece of level ground as far as the eye could see. Ice blocks, the shape and size of airplane wings, stuck out all over. A giant round column, (it looked like God put water in a bucket, froze it, and then tipped it over) probably 10-12’ tall, stood a hundred feet from us. Rectangles, Triangles and just tons of leftover ice parts were strewn about. You could climb up 6-7’ up one ice chunk, and descend 8’ into a little “cave” below it. The whole time you had to keep reminding yourself that you’re standing a 1/2 mile ON Lake Michigan, which has an average depth of 279 feet!!
The ice on Lake Michigan has drawn national attention, and everyone in the area is talking about it. But not many people are actually visiting this Winter Wonder! I’m a little shocked because this isn’t an annual event (although it has happened each of the last two winters), and missing out on it this year could mean missing out for another 20-30 years.
Here are a few thoughts.
- The journey is hard, so people settle for the stories of others: Truth is, it wasn’t easy getting out to the ice. The wind was bitterly cold and blisteringly sharp. Walking through the 6-8” snow drifts that covered treacherously uneven ice was hard. More than once I thought I was about to bite it on the ice. Twice we came across open expanses of ice that were clear, and looked straight into the water, giving the sense that it was fragile. (Strangely, there was more comfort in walking on snow-covered ice!) In the same way, so much of what most of us want in life is “out there” and requires a difficult journey to find. How many times have you talked about your future, your dreams, your God-given passions, but when you looked at the journey from here to there, you just settled for the stories of others?
The destination is so far away, people wonder if it’s really worth it: We could see the ice blocks from the shore, and they already looked impressive. Could the view really be that much better from up close? When the wind slapped us with negative zero wind chills, the distant view seemed like it would be sufficient. Our God-given dreams can have the same appeal, we can let ourselves believe that the view of them from far away will be just as good as the view from directly beneath or over them. It’s like living thru a northern Michigan winter and studying pictures of Hawaii to get your vitamin D fix -- the pictures are great, but there’s nothing like the real thing!
- The horror stories of others can keep us in the car: Tons of people talk about how great the ice formations are, and just as many talk about the dangers. News stories of people nearly falling through the ice or slipping into a frozen tomb frequent the local broadcasts and newspapers. Let’s remember, we’re talking about walking on a massive body of water that has a larger area than 9 states and The District, and is just barely smaller than West Virginia! Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about people who have chased their God-sized dreams, too. People who have been wrongfully accused, have lost friends, have ended financially ruined because of their pursuit of what they believed God had put in their hearts. They really believed they were following God’s plans, but the outcome was, at least from our finite human perspective, a total loss. The failures of others can keep our own dreams grounded.
- Ultimately, getting out on the ice requires quite a bit of work: To walk out on Lake Michigan, you really have to prep. First of all, you have to wait for the right conditions, and the right conditions that can freeze a lake the size of West Virginia involve ultra-freezing temps! You have to own the right gear, you have to know where to research to find the right access points and you have to be willing to drive some less-than-desirable roads to get to a place where you can actually walk on the lake. In the same way, chasing the passions God has given you requires prep, research, patience and a willingness to venture into unchartered (or rarely chartered) waters. The journey is hard (point #1), but preparation for the journey has its own challenges, too.
I’m glad we made the trip to see God’s ice blocks this week. I’m confident we won’t soon forget the amazing formations, and we have a fun story to share with our kids and with others. Even more, I’m glad we’re headed to our next great adventure with God. The journey is hard, but we’re not going to settle for the stories of others. The destination seems like it’s a lifetime away, but we know it will be worth it! The road of faith is littered with stories of those who didn’t get to see their dreams fulfilled in this life, but our our faith is helping us overcome our fears. And yes, it has been a lot of hard work -- and yes, more hard work is in the future -- but being ready when the call comes is worth the work!
What about you? Are you settling for the stories of others? Are you questioning the value of God’s dreams for you? Have you let the horror stories or fears of others derail you? Has the hard work of preparation been overwhelming? “‘I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). Will you trust His plans for you today? “Trust me” God is saying to you, “you’ve gotta see this view!”
Go ahead and take the plunge, the view is always better on the water!