On a journey through Alaska you may see a number of manmade rock piles. Some resemble the shape of a man or a cross. If you take an excursion out of Skagway toward the Yukon, you are likely to see a number of these. They are called Inuksuk.
An inuksuk is a man-made stone landmark used by the Inuit, and other peoples of the Arctic region of North America. These structures are found from Alaska to Greenland. This region, above the Arctic Circle, is dominated by the tundra and has areas with few natural landmarks.
The inuksuk may have been used for navigation, as a point of reference, a marker for travel routes, fishing places, camps, hunting grounds, places of respect, awe or holiness, drift fences used in hunting or to mark a food cache. Native peoples in northern Alaska used inuksuit to assist in the herding of caribou into contained areas for slaughter. Varying in shape and size, the inuksuit have ancient roots in Inuit culture. Historically, the most common type of inuksuk is a single stone positioned in an upright manner.
There is some debate as to whether the appearance of human- or cross-shaped cairns developed in the Inuit culture before the arrival of European missionaries and explorers.
For a weary traveler, an Inuksuk was a welcome site. They were happy to know they were on the right path, and soon to arrive at their place of refuge.
Reading about the inuksuk made me think about several parallels in the Bible.
John 14:6 says “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Proverbs 3:6 says “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Don’t you find it interesting that Jesus was referred to as the “Rock”. A firm foundation? The stone on which God could rebuild the temple in three days? (Of course, this was referring to the three days between his death and resurrection).
Isn’t it also interesting that Jesus is referred to as “the way” or the “path.” I guess in a way Jesus is an Inuksuk.
Do you ever feel lost? Even with a GPS I know sometimes I still get confused. Did she say turn that way? Is that arrow on this street or the next?
There are other ways of feeling lost too. When things don’t go right I can get frustrated, angry, lost. I know it’s a small thing, but I’m used to having IT support from my office. Last week before the trip at ETT we were having technology issues, and I wanted to smash my computer and phone. I was desperately begging people to help me? To show me the way. To fix my problems.
I’m sure some of you have faced much bigger challenges when you’ve felt lost. Cancer? A lost loved one? A wayward child? Problems in a relationship? Problems at work? Financial struggles?
I hope you get to see some of the Inuksuk in Alaska. They really are interesting. Seeing them just gives me a spiritual sense or sense of reverence. When you do see one, think about their purpose as a marker, and a path to the place of refuge. The next time you are lost, frustrated, and don’t know where to turn, remember Jesus is the Rock, and he marks the path to the place of your refuge and reverence.