Wednesday, May 28, 2014

For Every Bear That Ever Was There

Me, Tricia, & Mammaw Ruth
Americana Amusement Park, LeSourdsville, Ohio
circa 1980

"If you go out in the woods today
you'd better go in disguise.
If you go out in the woods today
be in for a big surprise.
For every bear that ever was there
is going to be there today because
today's the day the teddy bears
have their picnic.

I didn't know how to comfort her. Terror seemed to be pushing on the boundaries of my consciousness. How is this world such an incredible paradox? I was twirling on my fingers the greatest contrast of my life... the assurance of God pursuing my soul, and the present sting of death.

There was a God who created a perfect garden, placing humanity inside so that he could walk with them in the cool of the day. And that reality was shattered when creation chose disobedience in pursuit of forbidden knowledge.

And this same God chases us still. His self sacrifice to be able to walk with us in spirit. I know this all to be true. 

And yet still I feel the sting of the consequence of that separation from God... that same separation that sent them running from that Garden in their nakedness.

I sat there beside my little Mammaw as tears streamed down her face. Today was another piece of this seemingly un-ending goodbye. She was married to my grandfather (Pop) for 69 years. How do you say goodbye after weathering storms and sunny days of nearly 7 decades?

Her wisdom far exceeds my own. Still, I find myself in that room holding her hand as she trembled with silent tears. The crowd pressing in to pay respects was unending. Her strength was not. The powerful emotions of the day were nearly too much. I was determined to be strong, and I had been. I came from afar to offer my faith. My God is in control.

And indeed He is.

We had withdrawn to give her a chance to rest. My cousin Tricia was there. She began to talk about how Mammaw used to teach us a song about bears on a picnic. I began to sing the song. "If you go out in the woods today..."  It was such a rich moment! At first I felt ridiculous and childish as I sang those first few notes... and then I realized the beauty of the moment. 

She had sang those words to us in times of uncertainty. She had sang those words to us as we navigated the unknown pieces of life. We sat in that quiet room, facing the silence alone as the words of that song brought back for the three of us a simple, powerful truth...

...we do not face the woods alone. We walk together. The God who created us to walk in the cool of the day with him, also gave us one another to walk along beside. 

With my arm around the back of that chrome and black wheelchair, I leaned my head against Mammaw's and I began to softly sing the words of: Amazing Grace, Blessed Assurance, The Old Rugged Cross, and finally, Joy Unspeakable! The hymns I grew up singing beside her and my mother in church.

I could see tears running down her face. One escaped on my own and left a trail on my cheek. I didn't wipe it away, it felt like a great treasure. I was not ashamed of singing about bears on picnics, I was not ashamed of letting a tear flow.

I was cherishing this moment of sharing this incredible thing we call life with my cousin and my Mammaw. Let me tell you this. Life is beautiful. Even the hard parts that press our sanity and get attacked by terror. I push the terror back and I stare it directly in the face as I embrace the beauty.

We are creations of God. We are garden-walkers. We are God talkers. We are hand-holders with one another as we navigate this road back to God. He pursues us. I hugged my little Mammaw over and over and over as I relentlessly looked up to the face of God. 

And on that day... for those of us who continue to seek the face of the one who pursues us...

"every bear that ever was there
is going to be there today because -
today's the day the teddy bear's 
have their picnic."

The day will come when we go out in the woods... and I know I will have that picnic. We will all sing together again. I thought I needed to comfort my Mammaw, but I realized that I just needed to love her, to sit beside her, to reflect on the promises of God...

...and His comfort found us all. 

I give thanks to God!

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