Wild life abounds in Rocky Mountain National Park. In the high country I enjoyed the fat marmots sunning themselves on exposed boulders while small pikas scurried around beneath them. There were some large falcons circling on the heat thermals each afternoon and one trail was closed due to an aggressive raptor in the area. On my recent trip, two wild life encounters stand out.
First was an elk. I was bicycling an Estes Park city trail one evening when I was surprised to spot an elk only a few feet from the trail. He was enjoying an evening meal and had no problem with me stopping and taking his picture. Later I learned that elk are prevalent in Estes Park as fall approaches. The residents consider them a sign of the changing season.
My second encounter was late at night. I had placed all my campsite food inside my car, except for my ice cooler. I figured that no chipmunk or squirrel would be able to open my cooler. At 11:30 pm I was awaken from a sound sleep by a crash outside my tent. I quickly grabbed my flashlight and poked my head from the tent. The cooler was on the ground, its contents strewn across the campsite. I stepped outside the tent and then spotted the two yellow orbs and the big brown shape staring back at me about 10 feet from the cooler. A bear had entered my campsite.
For nearly a minute we stared at each other. He (or she) made no moves towards the cooler or me. I stepped back to my car and open the car door for a quick exit, but the bear still did not move. I slammed the car door in hopes of frightening the bear. The sound startled the bear and it took a few steps back. After a second, louder car door slam, the bear turned and dashed off into the woods. After waiting a few minutes, I gathered up all the food from the cooler and repacked it before placing it inside the car trunk. I did take some deep breaths and contemplated calm images prior to falling asleep again. The next morning I discovered an empty tortilla wrapper; the bear had found something to eat.
The two encounters started me thinking about how people might encounter God. On the one hand we might think of God as a sign of the season, a kind of wild pet that comes and goes as it pleases, of which we occasionally make sightings. Such encounters seem safe and calming, but they rarely change our behavior or lifestyle. The second encounter was more disruptive, more awe-some. It reminded me that God is GOD ALMIGHTY, and that awe and fear can be appropriate responses to a God-encounter. Such encounters can change our behavior. I kept the cooler locked in the trunk after that night.
God is the Almighty, Ruler of heaven and earth. When the Israelites confronted God on Mt. Sinai, they were terrified and thought they would die. “For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of God speaking out of fire as we have, and remained alive?” (Deut. 5:26) I fear that we might have turned God into our manageable pet, rather than seeing God as the awesome Creator of the Universe. Perhaps we need a crash at midnight to wake us from our spiritual slumber.
In what ways is God “wild” to you?
Almighty God, break into my life with all your power and glory that I might see you as you truly are.