True confession: I have an irrational fear of bears. When I was in my 20s, my roommate and I went backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One night, we heard a bear rummaging around our camp, looking for food. I remember lying in my sleeping bag in terror, consoling myself with the idea that the bear would have to rip through three layers of material—tent, sleeping bag, pajamas—before it could hurt me. (Like that would make a difference. My PJs weren't made of Kevlar.) The animal wandered off, however, and no harm was done except to leave me with a major bear phobia.
A couple of years ago, Michael needed to do some wilderness research for a screenplay he was writing, so we drove (yes, the whole 2,000 miles across the plains of Saskatchewan) to Jasper National Park in Alberta. (For photos of Jasper, see yesterday's post.) We hired a guide and took a couple of hikes. The night before our first hike, I woke in a total panic because of my fear of bears. The brown bears who live in the Smokies are one thing. Grizzlies still live in the Canadian Rockies. I had to get out of bed and go write in my journal for an hour or more until I could master my fear. I ended up convincing myself that I ran far more risk every time I drove the Dan Ryan, a notorious 12-lane highway in Chicago that locals call the "Crash Ryan."
A few days after our hike, which went off without incident, I bought myself the bear figurine in the photo. I wanted it to remind me that I had stared into the face of my fear and conquered it. In the 20 months since our trip, the bear has sat nearly forgotten on the desk in my office.
Until Friday. Writing jobs in our specialty have been scarce this year, so Michael recently applied for a part-time job. The interview went well, and we thought he'd be offered the position. We found out Friday that a current employee at the job asked for more hours—after the interview took place—and so Michael isn't going to be hired after all. For a few minutes, I panicked. I'm so tired of worrying about work and finances week after week. The job wouldn't have solved all our money worries, but it would have provided some relief. I wanted the anxiety to end.
Then I went back to cleaning the house in preparation for dinner guests. Moving something from the dining room table (which functions as a giant in box/out box) to the desk in my office, I saw my little bear. And I remembered that fear and anxiety don't have to paralyze me unless I allow them to.
Now I know why people in the Old Testament used to pile stone as a memorial to important events or encounters with God. Sometimes these reminders can help to keep us going during out next difficulty.
I hope the memory of past victories gives you new strength today.