I was walking alone tonight. Usually I have a friend or husband or child or dog withme, but occasionally I hoof it on my own, just to enjoy the quiet of the evening. Tonight I decided I would enjoy the solitary calm after a busy first day of school. I set off around the lake on a path that is a familiar friend to me now. I noticed the days getting shorter the last couple of times around, so I made a mental note that I need to walk earlier. There was a nip in the air…very slight, but coupled with the change in the evening light, I found myselfanticipating the fall.
As usual, it was a beautiful walk. Evidently, the tourists have gone home for the summer because I did not see another soul. Normally I see people fishing, camping,swimming, boating and hiking. Tonight,no one. I made anothermental note…bring someone with me from now on. I passed the deer watering hole from a few nights ago. I crossed the fishing bridge, and the beach. Peace was my companion tonight, for a while at least.
Once again I rounded a curve, once again I came face to face with wildlife. Once again I stopped in my tracks and stared,only this time adrenaline pulsed through my body causing my heart to race. In the path, walking directly towards me was a large black bear. He was bigger than I was and just a few yards away. His eyes locked on mine as he stopped, obviously as surprised to see me, as I was to see him.
My mind suddenly had acute clarity,and began working at the speed of light to assess the situation. Glancing behind me, I figured the beach was a half a mile back. That was the first open area where I could put some space between us. The car, on the other hand, was a half a mile ahead, but the bear was directly in my path and at that moment began moving towards me again. Outrunning a bear…not a possibility…even with the adrenaline pouring into my veins. I could dive into the water to my left. A definite possibility. Do bears swim? I think yes, so maybe not so great a plan,but the best I can come up with in a millisecond.
Suddenly, my mind brought back a sign I read while hiking in Alaska on my honeymoon 24 years ago. Amazing. I could see the words, now if I could just read them. Brown sign. White letters. They said, “What to do if you see a grizzly bear.” (My mind did not take the time to process that this was not a grizzly. I think it only recognized the word bear.) “1. Do not panic.” Yeah right. “2. Do not run, or turn your back to a bear.” So far so good on that one,though the idea of turning to run was screaming in my throbbing head as he moved towards me. “3. Face the bear, make a non-threatening noise. Shake keys or change in your pocket.” Lucky for me I always walk with my keys and my cell phone in my hand. I decided to try it because my mind couldn’t see number 4 on the sign anyway. I took one step towards the bear, shook my keys and said, loudly but not angrily, “Go on, get out of here.” Suddenly, this huge bear took off up an embankment through the woods, running as if he was scared to death. I kinda felt bad…just for a minute. Then I breathed a sigh of relief and shook my keys the whole way to the car while looking over my shoulder every two seconds. I made record time.
Safe in the car, I realized that bear was not really a threat to me. Not really. He wasn’t showing aggressive behavior, but because bears can be dangerous, the fear of becoming bear chow rose up in one heart pumping moment. That is how fear operates isn’t it? It becomes big in our minds. It rises up to confuse us, and to panic us. It seems bigger than life, like it is coming to destroy us. We cower. We shake. We formulate plans to avoid it. It is then, when it is time to execute our flimsy plans, that God will bring his words to your heart. They can be words that you read years and years ago. Yet they pop into your mind. The words of God come alive in an instant. Courage comes forth like a spring of fresh clear water on a hot summer day. When that happens, fear flees. It just up and runs away. Tonight, I survived my bear encounter. I also learned a valuable lesson about courage, and its source. After all, perfect love casts out fear.
Mental note…it’s time to start walking in town.