“Love as a Glacier”
Text: I Corinthians 13: 4-7
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
There was a time when if you wanted to get a good look at a glacier you wouldn’t have needed to travel very far. Glacier National Park is about a days’ drive from here, but there are far fewer glaciers there than there once was and the ones that are remaining have receded to the point where viewing them has become difficult. So, the next best option, I believe, would probably be Alaska for viewing glaciers. There are two areas specifically in what is called the inside passage of Alaska, one is called Tracy Arm and there is another area called Glacier Bay National Park. Both of these areas offer great viewing of glaciers, but only from the water, so you have to be on board a ship or a vessel of some sort. Most ships won’t take you extremely close because of the risk of calving, but you can get a pretty good look with a pair of binoculars and there is lots of floating ice to look at as well.
Everything you see glacier wise this morning has come from one of these two areas in Alaska. If you have ever visited a glacier or have witnessed the floating glacial ice, one of the very first things you probably noticed is how blue the ice is. Now this will vary somewhat from glacier to glacier and also vary on time of day and the particular season, but in general, it is safe to say that glacier ice glows blue.
The story behind the blue ice I think is quite interesting. It also applies to the text which I read just a minute ago, so if you can bear with me for a few minutes, I hope to tie all of this together.
If you ask a scientist why glaciers are blue, they will tell you that glaciers are so dense that they only reflect the blue spectrum of light and everything else gets absorbed. The extreme density is caused from the millions of years of pressure from the accumulating snow, year after year, that eventually turns into ice. This pressure compacts the snow and it becomes very dense. Well, for us non-science type folk, that doesn’t really help us understand what is really happening or why glacial ice glows blue. So, I’m going to take a crack at breaking this down for us so we can actually begin to understand what is taking place.
A good place to begin this understanding is with a basic understanding of light. I think most of us know that light that comes to us as white, is really a mixture of many different colors. This is called the spectrum, and it is visible when light is broken up and travels through something which divides the light into each particular color. The rainbow which we see is the most common form of the spectrum; the suspended water molecules in the air, usually from a recent rain or fog, break the light of the sun into the individual colors of the spectrum as the light travels through them.
Within the color spectrum of light, we also know that each color has a specific wave length or angle that it strikes any particular object. The spectrum generally runs from the reds and oranges at one end, to the blues and purples at the other end. The wave lengths of the reds and oranges are longer, that is a greater angle, and the purples and blues have a shorter wave length and so less of an angle.
To understand why the density of glacial ice makes a difference, it is necessary to understand that the light from the sun strikes the ice at different angles within the light spectrum. If we were to enlarge a piece of glacial ice we could think of one layer of ice as a ping-pong table. The next layer of ice is a second ping-pong table, but they don’t line up exactly, one is slightly offset from the other. Now if you were to throw a ping-pong ball onto the lower table at an angle, it would bounce up and hit the table above it, and essentially be trapped in-between the two tables. If, however, you were to drop a ping-pong ball straight down onto the lower table, it would bounce straight back up and miss the upper table.
This is a very over-simplified explanation of that happens to light when it strikes a glacier or glacial ice floating in the ocean. The light which strikes the ice at an angle, that is the reds and orange light in the spectrum, gets trapped in-between the dense layers of ice. The light which strikes the ice more directly, that is the purples and blue light of the spectrum, bounces back out and does not get trapped, so we only see reflected blue light from glacial ice. And that is why they appear to be so blue.
I recognize that I’m taking some time with this explanation, but I think it is important for you to understand, because if my analogy is going to make any sense at all, this background information becomes important to that understanding.
If you remember, I mentioned that light comes to us in the form of a spectrum. Usually, we cannot see the individual colors of the spectrum, but they are all there. The spectrum runs from the reds on one end, to the blues on the other end. I also happen to believe that we as human beings produce a similar spectrum.
If you think about it, we as humans are almost always conveying messages of some type all the time. Those messages can be thoughts, they can be comments, they can be physical body language, and they can be all different forms of energy that we emit constantly. My theory is that this energy which we emit all the time also is on a spectrum. Just as the light spectrum runs from red on one end to blue on the other, I think our energy spectrum runs from love on one end to fear on the other. Now some may want to substitute the word hate for fear, but I’m more comfortable using fear for a number of reasons.
So if you follow my theory and imagine for a moment that I am correct that we as humans are always transmitting energy in a spectrum that runs from love to fear; then it stands to reason that we as humans are always receiving energy from other humans on a spectrum that runs from love to fear. So as we receive this energy, my question becomes what do we reflect back to the rest of the world?
Now I want you to really think about this. There are photographs which exist, which I cannot take credit for, that have been taken inside of a glacial cave. This would be a situation where you are totally surrounded by glacial ice. The only light that is apparent is the blue end of the spectrum, because everything else is being absorbed, or trapped by the glacial ice. The only color is blue. Someone’s red jacket, for example, takes on a completely different look, because of the blue light.
In like manner, what would happen to our world if all of us were able to absorb all the energy of the energy we receive that is from the fear end of the energy spectrum? What would happen if the only energy we reflected back into the world was from the love end of the energy spectrum?
I have often said that there is evidence in our world that informs us about the personality of God. I think glaciers that glow blue is one example of that evidence. If we take another look at our scripture text that I read a few minutes ago, I would like to amend the text at the very end. Instead of the text ending in verse 7 with the statement that “love endures all things”, I would like for us to think about expanding our understanding of this text and adding a verse 7b, which would read after love endures all things, love absorbs all things. Love absorbs all the fear energy and allows us to reflect back into the world only the love energy.
If we could all accomplish that, then the peace which exceeds our ability to understand would certainly prevail on earth. I believe that is what Jesus did, he reflected only love back into the world. I believe that is what Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King did as well, they absorbed all the fear and reflected only love.
I think it is quite profound to realize that the light energy which strikes glacial ice that is in the red end of the spectrum becomes trapped in that ice and is essentially eliminated from our experience. It is gone; never to be seen or heard from again. I believe we have the same power as human beings to absorb the energy that comes to us from the fear end of the spectrum. Love allows us to absorb all things and to endure all things. Love never ends; but fear can.
Food for thought. Go in peace. Amen.