Hey God, Show Me a Bear

Once I asked God for a favor...

This seriously happened and I vowed that if I ever started a blog I would write about this time when God showed me his sense of humor and answered a very important question.

One summer day my husband and I realized that we were getting super boring.  Our three children were on vacation with my parents in another state and all we had done while they were gone was work.  We like do-it-yourself projects around the house and we decided to build a charming wood shed out of reclaimed barn wood in the back yard.  It was almost finished and so was our staycation without kids.  It wasn’t everyday that we found ourselves footloose on a warm summer afternoon.  We needed to have some fun, like in the good ole days. 

When we met back in college, we played shuffleboard at the bar, went sledding, attended concerts and parties and weddings.  We explored mountain hikes, went bowling, took spontaneous road trips, played pranks on friends, and exchanged love letters.  And then there was this one time... oh, never mind.  Anyway, now we were spending the week cleaning the house and building a wood shed?  Good grief.

A Toby Keith song came on the radio,  

Girl You Ain’t Much Fun

Now I'm feedin' the dog, sackin' the trash
It's honey do this, honey do that
I sobered up, and I got to thinkin'
Girl you ain't much fun since I quit drinkin’

That moment when your life is the song and the carefree days of your youth seem long gone.  Not that my husband needed to sober up, but we were singing it like we wrote it!  We dropped our tools and made a plan.  

My guy is an outdoorsman, so we loaded up the four wheeler and headed for the mountains behind our home.  There is nothing he likes more than the smell of buck brush and the chance to spot some wild life on the backroads.  We were both country kids who grew up riding motorcycles, camping, and playing outside so getting up in the mountains on an ATV is kind of our thing.

I put on my most romantic outfit (old jeans and a flannel) and rode on the back with my arms around his waist.  We took off up the mountain on our 4WD Honda.  The wind in our faces felt awesome and as he hit the gas, we left our responsibilities behind.

Ken never feels closer to God or me than when he is in the woods, so I was praying that God would bless our “date.”  I’ve always wanted to see a bear in the hills behind our house, so just for fun I thought I’d ask God for a favor.

God, I believe that You are our Creator.  You made these mountains, the blue sky, the animals. Lord it would be cool if you showed us some of your favorite animals.  In fact, I’d love to see a bear!  I haven’t seen very many in nature before and no worries if you don’t show us one, but can we see a bear?!  Oh, and please help us have some fun together.

As a mom, I want my kids to ask me for things but I didn’t like it when they demanded or pouted when I said no, so I try to do the same with God.  I was just happy to be out of the house with my man.  I had prayed to see a bear on other occasions and it never happened so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As we bumped along through dirt and gravel, I kept my eyes peeled believing God might just surprise me.  When I drive it’s harder for me to scan the hillsides because I need to concentrate on watching the road to avoid boulders and tree limbs.  Riding behind Ken I could spend the whole time looking up.  After a few miles as we rounded a corner to the left I saw a black spot contrasting with the sage neutral tones on the hillside.  It moved and I squeezed my husband’s waist and squealed in his ear: “A bear!  There!  A bear!”  I cried, pointing.  

He immediately stopped our ATV and killed the engine as we scanned upward.  Taking off our helmets, we discovered not one black bear, but two!  One was shaking a tree and the other was walking around slowly, foraging for food.  In no hurry and seemingly unaware of us, they moved around and we just watched, whispering and smiling for five or ten minutes.  I was extremely proud of myself for spotting them first, which was rare.  As the smell of pine trees flooded our senses, it was just the moment we needed to experience together.

God wasn’t finished yet.

As the bears eventually disappeared over the ridge, we continued on our way.  

Wow, thanks God!  That was awesome!  I know You heard me and You did that for us.  There is really nothing You can’t do and I know that, but it’s fun to see a display of Your power every now and then.  Would it be too much to ask You to show us another of Your favorite animals?  What else have You created that You are especially fond of?

I smiled to myself as we rolled along, still enjoying the thrill of seeing the bears.  

A few miles further, a pair of mule deer crossed the road in front of us.  Effortlessly they bounded so light and free right before our eyes.  Leaping several yards over the ditch to clear bushes, their white rear ends disappeared into the forest needing no path, unhindered by obstacles.  Their tiny feet were so different than the big bear paws.  I love their large ears and big, brown eyes and noses. 

Thanks again!!  Nice job on creating the deer— that must have been fun!  I enjoy seeing how each animal has its unique attributes that distinguish it from the rest.  The bear is big and powerful.  The deer is light and graceful.  It makes me think of the passage in Isaiah about eternity when You say, “The lame will leap like a deer…”.  Oh God, I love that verse.  I am so glad that Grandpa will not be crippled forever!  I can’t wait to see him jumping around, able to walk and run again.  

Immediately my eyes misted up as memories flooded my mind of my Grandpa Don.  His laugh, sitting in his lap, his stories.  Injured in a logging accident at just 30 years old, he was told he would never walk again.  Two long years of hospitalization and rehab coupled with a determined spirit proved otherwise and Papa Don did walk, though paralyzed from the legs down.  He had a cane and wore Levis and Florsheim shoes; the smooth leather soles were easier to drag as he used his cane.

An avid outdoorsman, Papa Don liked to hunt and was still able to drive along with the guys even after his accident.   He was candid and funny and everybody loved him.  He had the good natured ability to tell jokes and stories and was always the center of attention, plus all the colorful experiences of a poor country boy, World War II veteran, logger, and Postmaster.  He always had time for people.   To notice that customers stayed at the post office an hour when they came in for business was not unusual.  They went in to send a package and he weighed their steelhead on the package scales and made them laugh.  You would have loved him and someday I’ll introduce you.

Once, as a young girl, to my embarrassment, I tried to impress him with a good idea for hunting. “Hey Grandpa, how would it work to dress up like a deer when you’re out in the woods hunting?”  I suggested.  “Well Sarah, you’d get your ASS shot off, that’s what would happen,” he laughed.  Wow, what a dumb idea I had.  But, I didn’t feel ashamed.  I never felt ashamed with him.

My grandpa was a loving husband and totally devoted to his family.  He never went to church but began a relationship with God at the end of his life.  That is another story I need to tell you later.  I can’t wait to see him again when he is pain free, restored, and healthy.

Ok, God, this has been really fun.  I know the ride is almost over, but how about just once more?  Am I pushing it?  This time… I know You are proud of bears and deer,  but will you show me Your favorite?  What is one of the best things You created?  I want to see something that You have a very special affection for.  One of the best things You made.

Show me your favorite creation!

I was two for two.  I was on a roll with this answered prayer thing and I kept my eyes peeled, scanning every ravine, every peak, looking ahead then glancing behind so as not to miss it.  What would it be?  The third time is a charm and this was going to be good.  

Maybe it would be a grouse.  Or a moose.  Or a bald eagle.  The curiosity was killing me.  I hoped it wasn’t a mosquito.

Please, God!  Show me!  Show me Your favorite creation!!  What animal will it be?  We’re running out of time.  We’re almost back to the truck.  What’ve you got?!

And then, as we rounded the corner past the first parking lot, I saw two heads bobbing around in the backseat of an old parked car with very steamy windows.  I don't know what they were doing, but I doubt they were reading a book.  I was rather relieved that the windows were too foggy to recognize faces.  We live in a very small town and there are things I don’t want to know.  I chuckled to myself and a single tear formed in the corner of my eye.  I guess I had my answer!!!

My God is unpredictable and crazy about humanity.  He loves people— at our worst and at our best and everything in between.  I asked God to show me what He delights in.  He delights in US!  Like a loving parent and a good friend, He delights in our happy times and loves us in spite of our worst decisions.  Nothing we do or don’t do can separate us from His love because He IS love and His affection for us is based on who He is, not what we have done.

He delights in US!

More than that, He died to redeem us and restore our relationship with Him.  He has a sense of humor and created us to experience pleasure, beauty and laughter.  He hears our cries.  He helps tired parents and teenage kids who are trying to find their way in this world.  He loves His creation.  He hears us and answers our prayers, sometimes with a yes and sometimes with a no, but always with our best in mind.

I shook my head, smiling at this answer to prayer, wondering if anyone would ever believe this story but knowing this day was a gift to me that could never be taken away.  Different from what I expected, but certainly better.  We are all his favorite and I am so glad.  

We are all His favorite.

My great grandmother taught me how this is possible.  Grandpa Don was a teenager when the draft started for WWII.  His mother had three sons and had to send all three of them to war.  She pulled them each aside and tearfully gave them a gift of a beautiful pocket watch and loving words for the long and dangerous journey.  After they all made it home safely years later, they compared stories and found out she had told them all, "This is for you because you are my favorite and I love you."  They were ALL her favorite and she couldn't imagine her life without any of them! 

You are His favorite, too.

This will always be a sweet memory.  I share it because maybe there is someone who doubts God’s love because of that one time, that bad season, the decision no one can know about.  Those things you did cause you to feel ashamed and unworthy of the love of God.  Someone in your life made you feel like you weren’t enough and you weren’t lovable.  Maybe you believe that God would love you more if you were not gay, not divorced, went to church more, didn’t have that addiction, or better at forgiveness?

Not Jesus, my friend.  I believe that He is crazy about you no matter what!  Don’t believe me?  Read the gospels for yourself and see all the imperfect people to whom He intentionally showed favor over and over again.  His friends actually record being shocked and sometimes annoyed by the people Jesus chose to hang out with.  The love of God has nothing to do with our behavior and everything to do with His nature.  You don’t have to feel it for it to be true.

And if you're not there yet, my friends and I will believe it for you until you're ready.

I love you.  Jesus loves you more.