June 9, 1998
A few years ago, when our youngest was still a baby, we were tenting in a mountain campground. About midnight, Bob and I woke up to loud crashing and scraping noises. We quickly peered out the tent door window. Much to our amazement and only a few feet away was a large black bear.
Bruno was intensely interested in our metal cooler. He straddled it and pulled off the drain spout releasing the smell of food inside which drove him into a frenzy. But batting it ten or twelve feet at a time was not working. After half a dozen swats, he decided to take a run at the door of our tent. He stopped several feet away then whirled back to the cooler. Again and again, he charged the tent, each time coming closer. Soon Bob could smell and feel his hot breath.
Our little guy was still asleep. The older two were awake, shaking in fear. Bob handed me a knife and said, “When I tell you, cut a hole in the back of the tent and take the kids to the washroom.” It was a few yards behind our campsite.
My mind was strangely calm. In fact, running through it were the words of a comical country and western song: “Lord, you delivered Daniel from the lion’s den; now for goodness sakes do something about that bear.” I took the knife, wondering if cutting canvas was difficult.
In a few moments, the occupants of the next campsite drove into their parking space. We had asked them earlier to be quiet because their noisy party kept our baby awake. They left and now were back, obviously from another party.
Getting their attention seemed to take a long time but once they spotted the bear, their bottle-derived courage flared. One started yelling. Soon all four were throwing rocks. The confused bear decided the food in the cooler was not worth this harangue. He lumbered off.
After thanking our rescuers and safely stowing the cooler in the trunk of the car, we went back into the tent. The children went back to sleep. Bob and I enjoyed sudden peace with trees silhouetted on the wall of our tent. About an hour later, we woke again to a new silhouette. The bear was back, but again, we were unexpectedly calm. He snuffed up to the tent, dug a small hole near our heads, then shuffled away. Soon we were sleeping.
Years later, we tell of this strange event. Common sense says we should have been terrified, or at least much more concerned than we were. Yet faith often reassures me of what was really happening that night. God was there — and He taught me at least three important truths.
One is that prayer does not have to be theologically deep, solemnly spoken, in King James English, or said on my knees with heart-felt emotion and pleading. It can take any form, even that of a silly song running through my head. As the Bible says, God “hears the cry of our hearts.”
Second, I learned that God answers the needs of the moment. His response may not be a miracle, nor is He limited to our ideas of what constitutes a miracle. Also, His answers may not come through angelic beings or even pious people. If God wants to meet our needs using the drunken bravery of four partying campers, He can do it. He says, “Call unto me and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know.”
Third, I learned that when I am in the care of God, I do not have to be afraid; nothing can harm me unless He wills it. That bear may have been the biggest and most dangerous in the park, but God knew how to influence its actions and choices.
Our tenting days are over now. Our children do not even remember that night, but I will never forget it. It is a memory not just because of the bear but because of God’s faithfulness to hear and answer a prayer that was never quite prayed.