I Found God Among Bears

Shock of the century — I’m no theologian in the academic sense. But I do often have this urge to be one of those guys who just digs so deep into the scriptures and finds all these hidden meanings, and studies for hour upon hour every day. You know the guy, right? But I never seem to be able to get there. I’m just not much of one to sit down and study something out for too long. But I have major FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Like, how can I know God deeply like these other super theologians if I don’t spend hours in the Greek and Hebrew dissecting passages? I tend to absorb shorter passages and mediate on them throughout the day.

Last night I did something I love. I went running. I ran up to the top of Pinnacle Mountain, the tallest mountain in South Carolina. I was up ahead of the group, and no one else was on the trail at the top. Running along the ridge at the top alone is always creepy, because I know there are black bears up there. I’ve seen several there before. It feels like a bear thicket. Sure enough, I ran across a bear crashing through the woods. He stared at me. I stared back, thinking, “I’m not staring you down buddy, and I’m not trying to be a tough guy. I’m just too scared to look away or look scared!”

Then he scampered away down the slope, and I could hear the dry leaves and branches crushing beneath his weight. I guess the stare-down worked. A little further up the trail I heard another crashing sound, and knew it must be a bear nearby. I couldn’t see because the woods and brush were too thick, which made it even scarier since I was still alone.

Being alone in what felt like bear-infested territory on the top of a mountain made me think about God. I was praying for safety, to be sure. But more than that. I thought about how He is a very present help in time of need. About how safety is from the Lord. How David killed a bear and a lion when he was alone, because God must have given him the strength. I meditated on those aspects of Him. How he is our rock, and our salvation. Those seeming abstractions about God’s character became more real to me, more vivid, more alive. For the rest of the run I was talking with God and learning to let go of my fear.

Then it struck me. Maybe I’m not missing out on God by not being a “master theologian”. Maybe the theologian needs to go running up a mountain every once in a while to encounter God. Maybe he should be the one with a little FOMO :)

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