Growing up, my family and I loved camping. We would go to National Parks during summer vacation and even to this day, the smell of burning wood chips brings back nostalgic memories of making s'mores under the moonlight. My dad at the time was finishing up medical residency so we didn't have much money to stay in fancy hotels, so camping was the best option for us. I didn't mind.
One time we visited Yosemite National Park. I love that place. The scenes are picturesque and awe-inspiring. I think heaven will look like that one day. Crazy canyons, infinite mountain peaks and waterfalls that demand your utmost attention when you're standing at their feet. Our camping rituals included setting up a tent, roasting meat over the fire, hiking just a few miles because my mom would get tired and most importantly, enjoying one another's company. These memories were great.
If you've ever been to Yosemite, you know there's no shortage of bears. They are protected creatures in National Parks and even to this day, bears rule the land, especially at night. One night, after we had finished dinner and climbed into our tent we were awakened by a creature who was a few hours late to dinner. It was a not-so-friendly bear of some sort because you could tell by the sniffing and large steps in the general proximity. I was afraid... Very afraid. I had only seen pictures at the Visitor Center or heard rumors of their presence, but to be within a few feet of a real bear with only a piece of nylon to protect us, I was certain that this was the end of my short-lived life.
As the bear approached our tent, he would crease his nose into the side of the tent. The snarling and heavy breathing was more than I could handle. I held my breath while my heart beat out of my chest. Then, out of no where, my dad took his foot out of his sleeping bag and with one foul swoop kicked the bear in the nose and the bear ran off. I know he ran off because I'm still alive today.
I'll never forget that moment. The fear of the bear was transferred to the fear of my dad. When the bear was near the tent, that was the most scared I'd ever been in my life. But after my dad literally kicked the bear in the face, I was fearful of my dad. It was a comforted fear though. I knew my dad would never kick me like that but he was merely protecting me from the danger at hand.
The other day I was talking to a guy about faith and spirituality. He asked, "If I am supposed to fear God, how does that free me to be a son? Doesn't that make me a slave?" And it was in this moment I remembered this story of my dad. My dad isn't perfect, nor is he God but this experience with the bear reminded me of my all-powerful Heavenly Father. He is way stronger than any bear that tries to get in my tent.
Fear is real, it's right outside our tents, but who will be in the tent with you to protect you?
It says in scripture that God is a refugee in time of need (Psalm 61:3). He's a fortified tower (Proverbs 18:10). He can destroy nations with a blink of an eye and with just a few words He created the world. This is the God that I worship. It's crazy, but that's the kind of fear (or reverence) I have for God. He's not going to use his power to harm or hurt me, rather to protect me. He's powerful beyond anything I can possibly imagine in this world. He's able to deliver me from my fears, my pain, my frustrations, my temptations. He's more powerful than anything that I know.
Today, I'm learning to trust in this kind of God. A God who's stronger than a scary grizzly bear. He protects me when we're camping but also when I'm surrounded by darkness and the world feels like it's collapsing all around me. Fear is real, it's right outside our tents, but who will be in the tent with you to protect you?