Saira and Hannah
Bear and the Waiting
When was the last time you read a children’s storybook? Maybe it was to your daughter or son, granddaughter or grandson, cousin or niece or friend. You’ll have noticed that there is a wonder in reading stories to children: truth is revealed in the most beautiful of little tales, and we see old, forgotten things with new eyes – the eyes of a child just discovering the world.
That’s why we’ve created this story, Bear and the Waiting. We want to capture something of the wonder of seeing anew the truth that God speaks over us, and the Courage that he gives us as we meet with him in places that might scare us. We invite you to make sure you’re sitting comfortably, and to spend the next few minutes immersing yourself in this story. We hope you’ll find truth here.
Bear stretched and yawned as she woke, scratching her back against the rough bark of the tree behind her. It was the grey hour before the sun tipped above the horizon, and as Bear looked around, everything she saw was covered with a gauzy veil of mist.
Blinking, she noticed the flat rock she’d stood on the night before, as she’d arrived at this new edge of the forest and tried to glimpse what was ahead of her. It had been dark, the sky blanketed with cloud. She hadn’t seen a thing.
Now, though, in the dim, pre-dawn light, she could see not only the flat rock but a narrow path winding away from the forest and down a steep slope. She rocked herself out of the tree roots’ sleepy hollow and onto her four paws, the ground scrubby and tough beneath her as she ambled away from the tree.
Slowly, Bear began to see more and more of the path. It got narrower and rockier, and at the bottom of the slope it led into a big, dark, gloomy cave. Bear’s eyes widened in fear – what was down in that cave? Would there be a way through?
In spite of the fear, Bear knew that the path to the cave was the path she had been told to take. She gathered the courage she had left – the journey so far had been long – and sat down on the flat rock to have a think. Did she really want to do this? What would keep her safe? Questioning, she recalled the events of the day before.
Bear had woken late-morning, ready for a day of teasing bees and gorging herself on their honey. (Did you know that honey is a bear’s favourite food?) Yet as she’d approached the usual hives, she’d heard big wings beating in the air above her – wings far bigger than a bee’s. A blue-grey heron crashed out of the sky, through the forest branches, and onto the ground in front of her.
Bear was confused. She had never seen a heron before.
The heron looked ruffled too. It had never been inside a forest before.
Bear and Heron looked at each other for a half-second, both confused, and then Heron broke the silence with a screechy, squawky sound.
‘Bear,’ said Heron, ‘don’t be afraid. Today you are going to go on a journey – a journey beyond the beehives to the other edge of the forest. There you will find honey sweeter than you have ever tasted before.’
Bear continued to look confused. The other edge of the forest? Bear didn’t even know that there was another edge.
Heron seemed to read Bear’s thoughts. ‘Yes, the other edge of the forest, Bear, where there will be new honey to eat, in a place far better than you have ever imagined. You will find God waiting there for you – he longs to see you and to speak with you about wonderful things.’
Now Bear was even more perplexed. She knew about God. God was the One who had made her, and who had made the bees that make the honey, and who had made the forest that she lived in. The forest was good, and the honey was good, and Bear thought that she was rather good, too. But the Heron was saying there was a better place – and tastier honey – and even, it seemed, the chance to talk with God and hear him really speak!
Before Bear knew what was happening, she could feel joy and longing bubbling up inside her. She jumped up and said: ‘YES! I will go!’
Heron’s amber eyes sparkled. ‘Go, dear Bear. Go to the other edge of the forest, and remember all that I have told you.’ Heron beat her wings, pushed through the forest branches and up into the sky.
Bear bounded and leaped through the forest, buoyed by joy. She raced on and on – but soon, she grew tired. It was all she could do to keep putting one paw in front of the other. Exhausted, she arrived at the clearing at the other edge of the forest and promptly fell asleep.
Now here she was, awake and thinking on the flat rock. She longed with all her heart to find everything that Heron had promised, but, as the cave loomed big, dark and gloomy ahead of her, she trembled to the tips of her fur and was filled with fear to the soles of her paws. Her Strength was all gone; she was not as Brave as a Bear ought to be.
Dejected, Bear slumped down from the flat rock and turned back the way she had come. A large, salty tear of frustration and disappointment rolled down her big nose –
– and as it hit the ground she heard the flap of big wings above her (wings far bigger than a bee’s). She lifted her eyes and saw Heron swooping down, calling out in her screechy voice: ‘God has heard your prayer and seen your tears. Wait for him. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.’ A small object dropped from Heron’s claws to the ground in front of Bear.
Startled out of her tears, Bear curiously picked up the object. It was a candle! A candle to light her way through the big, dark, gloomy cave that loomed ahead of her. A candle from God who had heard her prayer. Bear’s hope was rekindled.
But how was she supposed to light it? A candle was no use at all without matches or a spark of flame. She couldn’t ask Heron; Heron had flown away. She couldn’t ask anyone else, because no one else was there. What had Heron said? Be strong, and take heart, and wait for the Lord.
Bear scrunched her eyes shut and waited, candle in paw. She tentatively whispered: ‘I am waiting for you, Lord my God, the One who made me, because you heard my prayer and you know me. I am waiting for you.’
As she whispered, the most surprising thing happened. Bear felt it first as a little flicker of heat on the very tips of her fur.
She opened her eyes slowly – and saw that the candle was alight! A bright flame danced and illuminated the clearing, the flat rock, and the narrow path to the cave. Bear’s eyes sparkled in the light, and joy rose in her heart. Immediately she knew, she just knew:
However big, dark and gloomy the looming cave became, Bear could be Strong. Bear could be Brave. Bear could be Courageous. Bear could be Herself, just as she was made to be – and that was enough. She could journey through the dark to take hold of what had been promised. She could boldly go wherever she was called.
And she knew that it was because God was Lighting her way.