Monday, November 10, 2014

Is There a Bear in Your Future?

In her memoir, The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking With Jesus, Joni Eareckson Tada tells a story that took place four years after the diving accident that resulted in her quadriplegia. She was with her parents and two of her sisters in Canada's northern Rockies, the first cross-country trip they had taken since the accident.

On this particular day her parents had gone into the village for supplies and her sisters were preparing for a hike. Seated in her wheelchair near the picnic table, Joni watched as they put on their hiking boots. Jay placed a book on the table for Joni and dog-earred the pages so that she could turn the pages. ("My shoulder muscles weren't very strong, and I had no movement or feeling in my hands, but with a shrug and a bicep-swing I could nudge things, like pages, with my armsplint," Joni explains.)

She watched Jay and Kathy hike until they were tiny specks, then she turned her attention to her book. "But on the very first turn of the page I shrugged too hard. My book slid off the table and plopped on the ground." And there was no one around to help.

Until the accident, Joni's life had been full of action -- horseback riding, swimming, racing -- and music and gusto. Left alone in the shadow of the mountain without even being able to pick up her own book was so very far from the life she had known. She realized that she was on the verge of another Feel-Sorry-For-Joni-Day. "Please, dear God, come rescue me by this picnic table," she cried.

Since she couldn't go out into God's creation, she asked the Lord to bring his creation close to her. Maybe a butterfly or a caterpillar, the wind or an eagle overhead. But there was no answer,

She told her sisters about it when they returned, exclaiming over the majestic view and the deer they had seen. "Well, maybe he hasn't answered yet," Jay replied.

That evening Joni sat across the campfire from her sister Kathy. Joni saw a movement behind Kathy, maybe a big black dog, coming toward her from the woods. "Kathy, don't move!" she whispered. But Kathy thought she was joking. But when the bear was just inches from her, sniffing her back and grunting, Kathy was convinced. Distracted first by the marshmallows, and then by Joni's wheelchair's foot pedals, the bear made its way around the fire.

Sister Jay, washing dishes inside the camper, must have heard the whispers outside. She threw open the door and yelled, "Bear? Where?" Joni concludes the tale with these words: "At that, the animal whirled around, nearly knocking the picnic table over. Pots and pans went flying and clattered to the ground. Frightened now, the bear lunged past Kathy and disappeared into the night...

"...It was very late when my sisters put me to bed. Only after the crickets stopped chirping outside my screen window and the night was deathly still, did it strike me: Oh, my -- Lord, you did it. You answered my prayer. And what a first-class answer! This was no butterfly or caterpillar. This was gigantic.

"'A bear,' I whispered into the night. I couldn't wait for the morning to tell my famiy about the way God answered my prayer.

"This wasn't just a favorite vacation memory for me, to be hashed and rehashed by countless flips for the special page in the photo album. It was an affirmation of God's faithfulness. He answered. The Lord of creation had answered. And it was such a 'yes' answer -- such a big yes -- that it made me forget all the other times I'd prayed and God had said no. I realized this was peace -- the kind, I'd read, 'which transcends all understanding, [and] will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'

"He gave not only a bear. He gave peace."

I know that many people long to have God reveal himself to them. "Just show me something that will remind me that you are here, that you care about me, that you're even listening..." Yet you get no answer.

Perhaps God isn't going to give you a butterfly or a caterpillar. Perhaps he's going to give you a bear!

If you find yourself today in Joni's situation, hold on. God is faithful. He is here; he does care; he is listening. The Lord said through Jeremiah, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (Jer 33:3). The psalmist declares: "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them" (Psalm 145:18-19).

You may just need to wait a little longer.

1 comment:

Joan Husby said...

What a story! I love it.