“If God exists he isn’t just churches and mathematics.
He’s the forest, He’s the desert.
He’s the ice caps, that are dying.”

                                    Mary Oliver

On our first day to go hiking, our guide gave us a lecture about bears. To be honest I was a little taken aback. I was eager to start my adventure in the wonderland of the forest enjoying the beauty and majesty of the mountains and the holiness of nature. I was not expecting a warning about the dangers of bears and moose and the other wildlife we may encounter along our way.

She encouraged us to talk loudly or even sing as we hiked to warn any bears that we were coming (my singing would frighten any Grizzly Bear away); to watch out for any bear droppings (not to avoid stepping in but to know they were around); and what to do if you encounter a bear (you don’t run away screaming at the top of your lungs).

She even physically illustrated for us what to do if the bear attacked which involved laying on your stomach covering the back of your neck and rolling around so that the bear could not get to your belly.  My enthusiasm for finding God in the forest was diminishing rather quickly.

It was a reminder that Glacier National Park is not Disneyland. To enter the wilderness is to encounter “wildness” with all its unpredictability and dangers. Rushing rivers, fallen trees across the path, unexpected snowpacks, and the possibility of bears makes one realize this is not a tame walk in the park.

The grace of God is not tame either. Grace is wild! It comes at us in unexpected ways from unexpected people and places. Grace is dangerous in that it strips away our illusions of being in control; shatters our preconceptions; and transforms the way we are in the world. We spend much energy trying to tame God with our theological assumptions and boxes.

Faith is not laying on the ground covering the back of your neck and rolling around so God’s grace cannot get to your belly. Faith is walking the trail, the Way, seeing the beauty and awe-fulness of the world. Faith is a journey with dangers – rushing rivers and fallen trees across the path and unexpected snowpacks. And if we are lucky, we might even see a bear. If you do, sing!