Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In the company of bears: Part II

We know they’re afraid of our presence, too, but for all our ruggedness, we’re still city girls in swimsuits and we’re trying not to wet our pants on their living room carpet. After ten minutes of deliberation, of praying and standing up on the bridge’s railing to check on the bears that we think are ambling back down the trail we walked in on, we muster some courage. Ruthie finds two rocks and bangs them together, I clap my hands as loudly as I can and yell, and we begin making our way down the trail. The further we go, the more we relax, almost enough to laugh at our pitiful performance, but there’s this reminder that we’re not alone out here.

The transition back to civilization, unlike our exit from it, is instantaneous. From pure and natural creation to cars, SUVs, power lines, perpetual noise, cell phone reception, I feel the immediate distancing from nature. Like we’re walking back through the wardrobe, from Narnia to England at war. Back to newspaper headlines: presidential campaigning, drought and famine in Africa, storms in the midwest wreaking havoc again, economic depression, revolutions and war in the Middle East. It assaults me immediately, this is our reality now.

And yet, this brief escape into creation reminds me of an even greater reality. That somehow, in the midst of all the distress and tumult of the world, another song plays daily, perhaps more loudly and more persistent. Creation shouts joyfully, unceasingly, of her beautiful Creator. Even in the chaos and tragedies of life on earth, creation continues to sing of the beauty and goodness of her Lord. Her song directs us to his wonder and majesty, his awesome power and tender care, his playfulness and artistic genius, his faithful remembering and daily presence.

We do, after all, share this home with bears.

Back in Seattle, I relish this day off at home before heading back to work tomorrow. I run around Greenlake, fast and free, kicking up dust all the way around in the partly cloudy sunshine. As I run, I think of life in the mountains, on the lake, in the vast, vast expanse of wilderness, out in the majesty of nature. How different it is here in the city.

I feel a nudge, not really, but in my heart, saying, “Pay attention.” And I look at all the people around Greenlake. The old men sitting on benches, the moms pushing strollers, the runners in all shapes and sizes, the couples holding hands, the delightful ruckus of children playing, the dogs running happy with tongues rolling out, the Indian grandpa all regal in white robe walking with his granddaughter in her pink dress and dark chocolate skin. There’s so much life here, I think.

And the one who nudged me waits, me who can be so slow to see sometimes, while the knowlege of his love lights up the dim places of my heart.

The truest beauty in God’s eyes is not in the rugged mountains or the wild waters, the green forests or the crystaline deserts. It’s not out “there,” secluded from all this madness of humanity. It’s here, it’s us. We are his most beautiful creation. What we see as ugly, messy, unfinished, tragic, chaotic, he plops down in the midst of and sees beauty. The mountains and rivers were not made in the image of God; we are. And he, transfiguring into our flesh and bones, coming to sit with us in our mess and offer a way out of emptiness, is the real beauty.

Now if we can only learn to sing joy songs with the rest of creation, what a beautiful sound that will be.


  1. Great insight Amber and so beautifully expressed !

  2. Thanks for sharing... I too have been finding "civilization" an interesting transition.

  3. Thanks, it was nice to write about our trip and feel even more grateful for all the layers of goodness it was. The transition back is always interesting from this particular trip, though...