My husband took me on another adventure last month: to Tromso, Norway. Tromso is on an island north of the Arctic Circle. You read that right, we went north of the Arctic Circle in January. Tromso was not a place I’d heard of until my husband suggested we go there. The whole point of going was to see the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are a natural phenomenon that occur from the particles from the sun hitting our atmosphere and the magnetic poles redirecting them. The movement of those particles can result in a color light show of the night sky.
You really can’t predict what they’ll be like though. You also need clear skies to see them. There are apps that give you an idea of the solar and pole activity, but even that doesn’t guarantee what you’ll actually be able to see them. We flew 4,500 miles hoping we’d see something of the lights. We planned several excursions at night and also had backup plans to venture out on our own if needed. Our first excursion was our second night in Tromso. We booked to go with a small group of 8 other tourists and our guide, JJ. We loaded into a van around 7pm and JJ drove us an hour outside of Tromso to the base of the fjord.
The excursion provided snow suits, a camp fire, dinner, hot chocolate, and even marshmallows to roast. We set up near the shore and then waited to see what the sky would do. While we had a fire and great winter gear, it was still very cold! JJ taught us about the Northern Lights, prepared food, all the time we kept looking at the sky. The weather was cooperating and we had a clear night sky. Our first showing looked more like a mist or light cloud with subtle green tints. The green was more enhanced in the pictures than you could see with the naked eye. Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. JJ would check his apps and say that he was expecting better activity to be seen.
JJ did as much as he could for our overall experience, but we were all there to experience for ourselves those lights. My husband and I agreed that even if we didn’t see much of the Northern Lights, sitting under the stars in a Norwegian fjord was still a pretty cool experience. After several hours, we collectively decided that we would move to another spot so we could at least have some varied scenery and photos. Just before we put out the fire, the sky began to swirl with greens and hints of pink. There were ribbons of vibrant green dancing across the sky. Part of what made it so spectacular is that the sky typically changes so slowly with the movement of the earth. Even clouds normally lazily drift above us. The Northern Lights were dynamic, moving, and changing so rapidly. Even knowing the science, it seemed miraculous and wondrous to see. Pictures, videos, and words do not do them justice. I was simultaneously laughing and crying with the joy of seeing that celestial show. The mood of our group changed in a moment, none of us were talking about being cold or tired.
My experience with God has not been so different from my Northern Lights excursion. I first began seeking to experience God’s light for myself when I was thirteen. My church teaches and challenges each of us to find out on our own what we believe. The scriptures are filled with miraculous and celestial events that I envied as a thirteen year old. I began a daily study of the Book of Mormon expecting to have some similar experience, leaving me without any doubts. Nothing obvious happened. There would be shimmers of light, but so faint, they could easily be explained away. Yet I remember being more aware of my choices and a desire to just be better every day. I continued my study and prayer for several months. When I finished and pondered on my experience, I knew I had experienced some light, and along the way my faith had been confirmed, if only by hazy shimmers. I could rely on those who saw more vividly, that there would be more to experience and see one day.
I have continued on with my faith and beliefs. Even when I’ve felt cold, tired, and defeated, I keep looking for the light. I’ve put myself in the places where I have the best chance to see God’s light even when it’s not always convenient or comfortable. Then I wait, always watchful. When I’ve least expected it, yet perhaps most needed it, God has granted me views of vibrant and undeniable light as I turned my eyes towards Him. As much as I love words, our language and my capabilities with it, cannot adequately describe the awe, love, joy, and wonder to commune with God and receive the light He offers. His light is meant for us to experience individually and for ourselves. I can witness it’s worth everything, even waiting, to experience.