I’m not a thrill seeker by any means but given the choice, I prefer:
- Spicy to Mild
- Deep to Shallow
- Tigers to Kittens
- And Roller Coasters to Merry-Go-Rounds.
Based on this information, you can be sure that when my husband and I visited Alaska, I wasn’t going to be satisfied with sightings of whales, eagles, hawks or wolves. I wanted to see the King of Alaskan predators: a bear! Preferably a grizzly. Unconfined. In the wild.
We were nearing the end of our vacation, and I had been on the lookout for one all week. While there had been a lot of talk about bears by our tour guides, I had yet to see hide or hair of one.
On the last day of our tour, my husband and I were walking along the trail that led to the visitor center at Mendenhall Glacier. Suddenly, we noticed a group of tourists gathered on the far side of a wooden bridge that spanned a rapidly flowing stream. They were whispering and pointing at something among the trees. When we reached them, I couldn’t believe my eyes: A massive bear stood approximately thirty feet away! He was snacking on a salmon he had just scooped from the water.
I whipped out my camera but couldn't get a good image of him because of the dense leaves blocking my view. Frustrated, I complained, “I wish he’d come closer. I can’t see him!”
My comment raised eyebrows among the people standing next to me. My husband just shook his head. “Did you really just say you want the bear to come closer? You’re not at the zoo, you know. That bear could tear you apart. Don’t you see those claws?”
I did see those claws. That was the point, wasn’t it? I was fascinated with the bear precisely because of his power, his size and the danger he represented.
I didn’t fear getting too close to a wild bear because I made certain assumptions:
- The bear would intuitively know that I admired him.
- He would appreciate my admiration and LIKE me back.
- He wouldn’t hurt me because we were friends.
Not very realistic, huh?
But neither are our expectations about other dangerous things we get close to. Sometimes we’re attracted to powerful things that can hurt us like drinking, drugs, gambling, rebellious friends or unhealthy relationships because they seem exciting. We don’t consider the danger of getting too close until it’s too late to back off and we're consumed.
Power can be beneficial or destructive depending on the character of the one wielding it. But any power that I don’t have the ability to control feels dangerous to me.
Take God for example. Is He dangerous? I think so.
- He wants ALL of us: heart mind, body and soul.
- He will pursue us relentlessly and do whatever it takes to get our attention.
- He won’t hesitate to make us uncomfortable today, in order to make us wiser, deeper and stronger for tomorrow.
- He urges us to reach for goals far beyond our own capabilities.
A relationship with God feels scary to me—but pretty exciting too! (A guy named Jonah told me to tell you that he agrees just before he wandered off mumbling something about a whale.)
Since I’m still alive, you’re right to assume the bear I saw in Alaska did not respond to my request to come closer. And I want you to know that I've made a few changes since then: I’ve decided to maintain a safe distance from dangerous beasts (and activities) that possess the potential to destroy me.
Instead, I want to get closer and closer to this dangerous God that calls me to a life of excitement, adventure and purpose. Although I’m often scared by His plans for me, I know I can trust Him to use His power to help me rather than hurt me.
I’d love to hear from you on this subject. Are you attracted to power and excitement? Is this attraction leading you toward predators or toward protection?