Jean and I love to camp with our boys. Last week we pitched our tent, hiked, played ball, cooked dinner in the fire pit, and then hit the sack for what was to be a restful night. After all, we had perfect sleeping weather—the kind of Rocky Mountain cool air that produces a refreshingly deep rest. One problem. A rather hungry black bear decided to hunt around for a midnight snack just one campsite over from our tent. I’m talking maybe 80′ away.
There’s nothing like a bear to clarify your thinking about what’s important in life. Independent of each other, Jean and I both arrived at the conclusion that if the bear had decided to prowl around in our tent, we’d immediately roll over on top of our kids as a human shield. Jean told me later that she was thinking, “I’d give my life to save my boys. You can’t have them Mr. Bear!”
Within moments of tucking the kids into their sleeping bags, they were out and missed the drama. While the boys slept soundly, sleep was out of the question for Jean and me. Whispering so as not to be overheard, we weighed our options. Should we make a dash to the car with the kids? Would that attract the bear to our location? Or, should we hunker down and pray for him to graze elsewhere? I mean, you’re not gonna win a fight with a bear, right?
We’d learn the next morning that “our” bear actually pushed the large “bear proof” dumpster out of it’s enclosure down a short ramp. Then, with the strength of several men, the bear toppled the dumpster in order to break open the chained-top. Lying in our flimsy tent, the bear’s activity was as noisy as it was unsettling. Part of me longed for the safety of the giant fifth-wheel RV parked next to us (see picture).
I’ve come to learn that male black bears in our part of the country weigh between 250 to 600 pounds. This guy must have tipped the scales and been pumping iron in his spare time in order to move such a massive trash receptacle. While he searched for food my mind rehearsed our preventative measures. I knew we had been super careful to remove all of our trash. We even locked the food cooler in our car along with the clothes we cooked in so as not to tempt a hungry prowler. There was really nothing more we could do but wait it out.
I think we finally drifted asleep at three in the morning. About five o’clock, the birds started their musical greeting. One bird would start to chirp, then the others joined in until the trees were filled with the cheerful song. The thought struck me that their music was like God’s version of waking to the gentle sounds of a CD player on our nightstand back home. Very delightful indeed.
As we made breakfast, Jean and I tactfully told the boys about the bear. We tried to keep it low key so as not to alarm them. When night rolled around again, Jean had an idea what we could do to protect ourselves should the bear return for an encore. She decided to keep the rechargeable air pump next to her sleeping bag. It’s extremely noisy and we were pretty certain it would scare the bear off if necessary.
A funny thing happened. While the bear was thankfully a “no show,” Troy squirmed, tossed, and turned so much he accidentally triggered the air pump at 2 o’clock. The whine and ruckus of the air pump echoed across the entire campground. I’m sure the “neighbors” must have wondered whether the Three Stooges were camping next door.
One more observation. On the third day of our camping trip the birds were engaged in their beautiful morning song when a jet flew overhead. The roar of its engines reverberated through the mountains, drowning out the birdsong for a few moments. I thought to myself, this dynamic is a lot like life. God’s gentle voice is like the songs of the birds and the worldly noises have a way of drowning Him out. I was challenged in a new way to listen to God’s voice through His word, the Bible, before the sound of the jet engines overtake my day.