“Is this a brown bear?” I asked when I walked into his study.
I had stopped in Huntersville, West Virginia, to visit with a preacher friend of mine, Jerry Moore, who pastored at the First Baptist Church.
Many bow hunters will probably remember Jerry, because he had once owned and operated “Bow Hunter Supply” in Vienna, West Virginia, for a lot of years. At one point, however, he left the business to enter the pastoral ministry. The church he led in Pocahontas County was very blessed of the Lord the days under his ministerial leadership.
“No, this is actually a cinnamon-colored black bear.” Jerry had once been an avid and successful hunter. The three mounted bears in his study attested to his hunting skill. “This one nearly got me before I got him,” he added quickly.
Jerry then launched into the story of his hunting trip to the northern reaches of Manitoba, Canada, several years previous. The black bears inhabiting that territory come in a variety of cinnamon, black, brown, and blonde colors. In preparation for the hunt, Jerry said that his guide gave some pointed instructions. One in particular was that under no circumstance should he leave anything in his stand. A curious bear would discover it, and would return to recheck for other items.
However, after the first day’s unsuccessful hunt, Jerry decided that his large Styrofoam cushion was too bulky to carry back to camp, and opted to leave it in the tree stand. After all, he did not have very much confidence in his guide who had come off being too bossy toward him.
As he approached his stand the next morning, he found the cushion shredded on the ground. Bear claw marks and teeth marks clearly indicated that a bear had climbed the stand and retrieved the cushion. He realized he had made a mistake by not listening to the guide. He soon realized how right his guide was on the other matter as well.
He picked up the largest cushion piece and ascended the stand with it to sit on. He failed to reason that the scent of the cushion would provide a curious trail for the curious bear. Jerry said that a bear can move so quietly when it wants to that it can surprise the most attentive hunter. As a matter of fact, the cinnamon-colored black bear was underneath his stand before he realized it.
When the ladder began to jiggle, Jerry realized the bear was coming up to where he was. He un-notched his arrow with the thought of jabbing at the bear, but better sense prevailed with that thought. Being in full camouflage, his only recourse was to make-like-the-tree to which his stand was affixed.
After pawing at Jerry’s backpack, which dangled on a limb, the bear suddenly looked at Jerry, who was pressed hard and tight against the tree. Evidently, the bear sensed that something was not quite right, and, incredibly to Jerry, began to cautiously back down the ladder. When the bear got on the ground, Jerry knew that the providence of God had protected him.
But, he also admitted that his dangerous, close encounter with the bear was because he had not listened to the instructions of his guide. This account enforces at least two spiritual principles about which we should always keep in mind.
Comparatively, it reminds us of the potential misfortune at hand when we arrogantly flaunt the Biblical instructions of God. The Scripture speaks of “presumptuous sins,” which refers to those sins we shamelessly, irreverently, and daringly commit. So many times people admit that they know better than to do the things they do, but they still thumb the nose at God regardless, and ultimately bear the consequences of spiritually dangerous practices. Many of the problems we experience come from not listening to the providential instructions of the Lord.
Furthermore, it reminds us that all too often we open ourselves to the oppression of evil. It is for sure that the Lord gives us security and protection from evil, but the devil is quick to take advantage of every opportunity we give to distress and depress us, and to bind and blind us. Apostle Paul told us to be careful, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
Otherwise, un-bear-able circumstances may be in store for us that hugging a tree will not help.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.