A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I took a trip to visit friends in North Idaho and then traveled on to the YWAM base in Lakeside, Montana. Our daughter participated in a DTS (discipleship training school) there the year before, and we wanted to see the base and experience Glacier National Park.
Before we left, the topic of bears seemed to weave itself into many of my conversations. When we arrived out West and made our way from Spokane, Washington, to Sandpoint, Idaho, and finally Glacier National Park, I noticed my fear of bears had grown as large as the Glacier mountains themselves.
I am not usually a fearful person. Yet, in the last year or so, I found myself worrying at times about various things, and my latest fear was the possibility of meeting bears on this trip.
The day came for us to explore Glacier National Park, starting with Two Medicine Lake on the East side of the park. We were armed with bear spray and Anton revealed he had also checked out some Youtube videos on interactions with bears.
According to the videos, we were to make loud noises such as clapping, carrying on conversations, and shouting, “Hey bear!” every so often. Shouting, “Hey bear!” to me sounded a little too nice, like an invitation to a meet-and-greet with a Grizzly.
However, as we trekked along, it was not long before a lone girl in her twenties came hiking along, clapping and shouting, “hey bear!”
Anton smiled, and I just stared in admiration of the brave girl, walking alone.
We did not see a bear that day, nor did we see much of any wildlife. Still, I carried this fear with me.
The following day we headed to the Many Glacier Hotel, where our friends had seen a Grizzly bear the year before. I would later find out, Many Glacier was a popular place to see Grizzlies. Our friend had carefully omitted this detail when he raved about this part of the park.
We started and picked a trail we knew would be heavily populated with humans to ease my fear. After maybe ten minutes on the trail, we met a group of people who had just seen a bear 200 yards or so from where we were. Despite my nervousness, we decided to keep going. As we walked closer, there was a family on the opposite side of the trail watching a black bear, about my height, dig in a tree for some sort of goodies. We made sure the bear was aware of us, and then made our way higher above the trail so we would not disturb him. Even in my fear, I managed to grab my phone and snap a picture.
After seeing him, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. If we were 10 minutes into our 12-mile hike, how many more bears might we see? We continued to walk with the family we had met, talked about the experience and then continued on with the normal national park questions – where are you from, what do you do, how long have you been at the park? Soon enough I had forgotten about the bear, and as we met person after person along the trail, my fears lessened.
The hike itself was incredible: mountain peaks, turquoise lakes, snowfields, rock edges, and finally the glacier and glacial lake at the top. The view was definitely worth the trek.
As we made our way back down the mountain, we walked with a woman from Poland. Hiking is an incredible way to meet new people and hear their stories.
After one turn down the mountain, we saw a park ranger holding out his can of bear spray, talking to another couple. As we approached him, he shared they had just seen a Grizzly down in the brush. Our new Polish friend and I didn’t hear much more than the word Grizzly before we took off down the path in the opposite direction of the bear.
My husband stuck around with the park ranger, and sure enough, was able to catch a glimpse of the bear.
Twice that day, I was forced to face my bear fear and yet both of those times, it was the best possible scenario to face those fears, with others (community) and with a park ranger (one who had experience and authority).
What a picture this was for me, of how it should be to face our fears and struggles in life. We should face them together with other believers, and with those who have gone before, and who know and understand the terrain.
Despite those bear sightings, I continued to hike and was drawn day after day back to the beauty of Glacier National Park.
Towards the end of the week, I hiked another trail with friends. I knew this trail was less populated and the chance of seeing bears was greater. Yet my fear was no longer the focus; instead, the focus was on the beauty and adventure that awaited us. Something had shifted in me.
What started as an overwhelming fear at the beginning of the week, lessened as the beauty of the park became greater than the fear.
“Fear precedes beauty – beauty overcomes fear.”
As I later reflected on this idea, I wondered if this is how it is with God’s love. As we are drawn, covered, and surrounded by the love of God, our fears lessen/diminish and His love is all we want and see. The fear might not totally be gone, but the desire for more of God, more of His love, and more of His beauty diminishes the fear holding us.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:18-19
As we are drawn into the beauty and love of God, may He diminish or lessen the fears holding us today.