“we’re going on a bear hunt” and other great works of literature & theology
Literature is my great love. I once read the 1,488 page tome, Les Miserables, in three days. Yes, I read approximately 12 hours a day, but I heard my friend, Jeff, had done it, knew it could be done, and refused to be shown up. The majority of my reading choices aren’t really my choice anymore, so I’m forced to use my eye for identifying themes and perspicacity into a story's meaning in a bit of a different manner. Take "The Runaway Bunny" by Margaret Wise Brown (also known for her great work of exploring nocturnal salutations, “Goodnight Moon.” I’m partial to the “bowlful of mush” portion of the story myself. Yes, this book is the worst. Yes, I know it by heart.). The Runaway Bunny has to be one of the best children’s books ever written (If you don’t own it, you should). The book tells the story of a baby bunny who is just determined to get away from his mom, followed by his mother’s promises to pursue him no matter what (“If you become a bird and flay away from me, I will be a tree that you come home to.”). Not only does the story beautifully narrate a mother’s love that will never give up on her child, but there’s also major gospel-teaching themes (for any mom looking for them in a book about a bunny). This book can be a picture of God’s love that will never give up on his child. For 33 beautiful pages, this is mom’s message to her son is: "I will go to any length to rescue you." Is that a picture of the gospel, or what? "[Nothing]...will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
Next on the list of the “World’s Great Works of Literature/Theology”: “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxbury
“We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day! We’re not scared! [We’ve now hit some obstacle, oh no, what will we do?!] We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ve got to go through it!”
Chances are, you know this book. If you’ve never had the great joy of attending a preschool story time and haven’t experienced the triumphs and terrors of a bear hunt for yourself, you can experience “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” on youtube (read by the author, no less).
Well, let’s just say this is me every morning: I’m on a mission! It’s a big one! What a beautiful day! “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”
Then I walk downstairs. One’s crying, one’s complaining about having to get dressed, one stole a granola bar, and one already created an every-puzzle-piece-we-own-mixed-up-mountain. I’ve hit the “long, wavy grass.” It makes it a little harder to walk, but I can still manage. It’s okay, I’ve got this! I’m on a mission, it’s a big one, it’s a beautiful day, The Lord is my salvation, I’m not afraid! Then comes math schoolwork (cue baby crying, toddler asking for a snack, and preschooler falling and bursting into tears because it is the law. of. the. universe. that everyone will need me once the cover of the math book is cracked). We’ve reached the “thick, oozy mud.” You know how to do multiplication! You’ve done this a million times! JUST PAY ATTENTION! So now not only is my walk hindered by my kids’ sin, now my sin has mucked up the mission, too. Ugh, I did it again. Every day I pray I’ll be patient during school and every day I fail. Enter the “big, dark forest.” I can’t see in the big, dark forest. I’m blinded by condemnation and relying on feeling around. I feel so weak. I feel so unworthy. When I’m blinded by my sin, I can’t see truth, I can’t see Jesus.
I may be taking this analogy a bit far (especially if you're not familiar with the book), but stick with me, because now we’ve come to the “oh my goodness, right now, reading this silly story to my 4yo, you’re speaking to me, God!” moment. The bear hunting crew keeps walking in the big, dark forest. “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. We’ve got to go through it. Stumble, trip. Stumble, trip. Stumble, trip.”
On these 9am-feels-like-9pm days when I’ve been annoyed by my children’s childishness and screamed about math and wallowed in self-pity, I just want to call a “do over.” I don’t want to go through any of it. I start off one hour before believing that all that matters is loving God and living this day wholly for him, that I have the great mission and joy of dazzling my children with Jesus, that everything I do today has an effect on eternity. Between 8am-9am, I stumble, trip, stumble, trip, stumble, trip. I’ve failed again, and I just want to be done with all this sin. “What a wretched [wo]man I am! Who will rescue me…” (Romans 7:24, NIV) I want to escape from the things (people) who tempt me, I want to escape from own sin and weakness, and I just want to be different. But I can’t go over it, I can’t go under it, I’ve got to go through it.
These days, when I “go through it,” when after failing, I embrace repentance and the hard (cross empowered) work of fighting my sin, these are the days God uses to change me. As I (figuratively and, quite possibly, literally) drop to my knees before God in confession and repentance, when I experience the joy of forgiveness, when I see God’s mercy in His redemptive plan despite my sin, when I’m humbled by seeing my continued need for Jesus’ blood and the power of the Holy Spirit, I fall more in love with Jesus and I become more like Jesus. Because the reality is that whether my day plays out like a fairy tale or like an average day of an average mom stumbling and tripping, I’m desperate for God and any change I experience will come from God.
Finishing out with the greatest source of theology, God speaks to me in His Word on these proverbial bear hunt days:
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, emphasis added)
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)