One autumn afternoon, my husband and I drove out to our beautiful new property, half forest and half meadow, with our son-in-law and two grandsons in tow. Robert began working on building an outbuilding and my son-in-law and I set out with the two boys to explore our timbered lot. Our woods boast some magnificent rocks and stone outcroppings so we climbed higher and went further due to our utter fascination with our new surroundings.
At one point, I thought I heard someone yelling to us but the sounds of a 3 year old and an 18 month old……..and my heavy panting…….drowned out everything but the sound of the gentle wind in the trees. Finally, I just knew that I heard Rob yelling and he sounded like there was panic in his voice! I had a terrible time making out what he was saying because he was over a half mile away but I knew I heard the word “BEAR!” and “Get out of there!” My heart started pounding and John and I each scooped up a child (how did I end up with the heavy, long-legged 3 year old?) and began furtively working our way back through the woods without truly knowing the way back to the path. All the while I kept praying for protection.
As I was trying to hurriedly descend down from a steep rock with my grandson’s weight in my arms, I fell, smashing my knee. Later, my grandson got caught on a briar that clawed at his tummy and he wailed like a banshee. Surely a bear would be scared off by the sound of that??!! I started shouting for Robert wondering why he had so frantically been calling us and warning us over and over and now I wasn’t hearing anything. Rob was the only one of us that was armed with a gun and he was way down in the meadow. There was no returning answer from him and I became worried that he must have first encountered the bear and been hurt badly by it.
Our winded and frightened foursome finally broke out of the woods and onto the sodden path. In the distance I could see what looked like Rob bent over our trailer working on sawing a board. Now, my husband is a laid back kind of guy and a very non-reactive complement to my somewhat anxious personality but I was a little miffed that he seemed so unconcerned when we had just felt the icy fingers of death and lived to tell about it. “What’s going on?” I panted as we got closer. “Oh, nothing,” Rob said. “There were 2 Surveyors that showed up on the property and I was concerned that you would be afraid if you ran into 2 big men in the woods.” “What??? I’m not afraid of 2 men! I’m afraid of a BEAR!!!! And why did you yell ‘BEAR!’ from over a mile away?”
Oh…….you didn’t yell ‘BEAR!’
You yelled……. ‘SUR-BEAR-ERS!’
It didn’t take long for me to see the humor in this event. But the parallels to my own spiritual path demand that I ask myself, “How many times have I thought that I am running away from a fierce and raging opponent towards something safer, only to realize that I don’t understand who the real enemy is?” So often I am presented with a crisis or a concern in my family or professional life. I ruminate over the individual causing me the problem, think about actions or responses towards them, and consider what is motivating them to act in the way that they are. But the individuals causing me stress or consternation are not the enemy. The real enemy is Satan. He is described in the Bible as one that is, “Prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5: 8). While I am barreling head long through the brush, falling on rocks, and tearing my flesh on briars, I need to recognize that my real battles in life are motivated by a spiritual enemy. My only response then is to put on my full spiritual armor, fall to my knees, and pray to the only One powerful enough to subdue the real enemy.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.