A couple of years ago and it was beginning at a slow, lazy pace Saturday. My brother was staying with us and we were idly eating breakfast thinking about the day, when we decided on a day trip in the Shenandoah mountains. That was not hard to do since we lived only an hours drive away. My brother had the first of his brain surgeries and was recovering. I was on Sabbatical. There was nothing urgent. Soon we were up on the cool, leafy drive looking at the valley below or at the mountains across from us. Then the speculation began, what if we see a bear! So the search was on. Would we see a bear?
My brother mentioned, you know we could just stay the night here. It didn’t matter that we had nothing with us in the way of clean clothes, toothbrushes and such. Sure…of course… why not! So at one of the ranger stations we were able to call ahead to a lodge and hurray – there was a vacancy! We got the stuff we needed at the camp store. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo and a bit of food.
We hit the road and enjoyed the beautiful foliage when sure enough – right in front of us was a juvenile, black bear. We stopped to admire and of course for Ken to get photos. But that wasn’t the end of the experience. By the time we got to the lodge we spotted 3 black bears! We were beside ourselves with excitement. My brother’s mantra for the rest of the day was, “I love bears!” We even got matching bear T-Shirts at the lodge gifts shop to celebrate the bears. “I love bears.”
Sometimes we have bears inside us. They are dormant, and then all of a sudden they are running around, creating emotional havoc, making their presence known. Elisha the prophet was an important man. He was God’s mouthpiece. But try mocking him and “Arghh!” Elisha roars and his internal bears come running.
I bet Elisha felt so much regret. He was a good man. He cured people of leprosy, raised the dead, and multiplied bread to feed the hungry. Except he had bears. Here’s the thing: we all have a pair of bears lurking in the underbrush. Carl Jung taught that each one of us has a “shadow aspect.” Your shadow in an unconscious aspect of your personality, the least desirable part of who you are, the part you don’t want to acknowledge. Elisha was a wonder-worker, and he was petty, angry, and proud. He wouldn’t accept those parts of himself. So they lurked in the woods, waiting to surprise him. The man didn’t know his bears. When they leapt into his life they raged out of his control.
For sure we learn in life that it is better if you better know your bears. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. For only when we see ourselves for who we truly are can we hope to calm our bears, soothe them, and even use them. If we don’t, they’ll use us. If you get to know your bears you know, the better they are to love.
Grace and Peace,