As I got out of the van, I saw the sign at the trailhead. “Warning! Bears frequent this area. If you come across a bear, this is how you should handle yourself: Don’t run. Make loud noises…”
“Shouldn’t be a problem”, I thought.
I was in Virginia on a family vacation. The out-and-back trail was a little over 2 miles and ran along the ridge of the mountain. Snow had fallen the night before so my feet crunched in the snow and there was a holy hush over the woods. Rocks stuck out from the snow and the trees wore the newly fallen snow like brand new clothes. As I shouldered my back pack with my water bottle, snacks and camera I hiked along as snow flakes continued to fall from the grey clouds hanging low overhead.
As you hike, there is a rhythm that comes over you. One step leads to the next step. My breathe matches that rhythm and comes out of my lungs in regular bursts that I can see in the crisp, cold air. The rhythm is only broken by the large boulders that periodically rise out of the ground forcing me to climb over and around them. As I climb over one large grouping of rock, I look down to see a small cave that is dry and protected from the falling snow. I looked down and thought, “If I was a bear and was hungry for some “hiker-jerky” after a long winter’s nap, this is were I would hide…” Thankfully, no real bears had a similar thought so I kept climbing.
Arriving at the summit, a sense of awe came over me. I remembered that God created everything stretching below me and everything hidden by clouds above me. I could almost hear Him ask me like he asked Job,
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
…Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
…Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
and spread its wings toward the south?
Does the eagle soar at your command
and build its nest on high?
It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
a rocky crag is its stronghold.
And like Job, I realized that too many times I set myself up as God. I try to set boundaries in places that I know nothing about. I try to control my world. I think I know about the world, while in reality, I know so little.
As I stood there on that mountain peak, the snow cleared and I could see down into the valley. The snow still covering everything. And I thought, maybe even as a prayer, “God, I have tried to set boundaries that only you can set. I have tried to control my world. I have believed in you. But now, I have seen your glory in a new way. You are God. I am not. Forgive me. Help me.”
I turned around and hiked back to the van. I didn’t see any bears, but I did see God’s glory in a new way.
And for both of those things, I am thankful.