Very early on a Sunday morning on a remote Florida highway, my husband and I noticed a road sign we’d never seen close to the coast before. It was a yellow, diamond-shaped caution sign with the silhouette of a bear in the center.
I was already on edge—it was hours before daybreak and the black waters of St. George Sound splashed ominously at my right as I hugged the coastline. The last thing I wanted to add to my anxiety was the threat that a giant black bear might come lumbering out into the road. (Although I guess you could argue it’s the bear you’re not looking for that you should worry about!)
We had dropped off three of our four kids at a beach house with relatives so we could continue to drive further inland in the direction of the soccer fields where our older son would be playing in Jacksonville, just shy of the Atlantic. It seemed like the sun would never come up, and we fought the fatigue we felt from the 10-hour drive we had made the day before. Attack of the Swamp Bear loomed large in my exhausted imagination.
There are seasons of life when you know what dangers lie ahead—the terrible twos of parenting a toddler or the unwelcome weight gain of middle age. Though these probable and assumed complications can be difficult to manage, they are steps in a natural series of events. You see them coming and expecting them sometimes makes them easier to survive. But what about those curveballs zooming in at 100 miles an hour out of the clear blue? The serious illnesses or relationship trauma? The Swamp Bears who attack before courteously putting out a warning sign first?
These are the moments when I’m reminded how little I can control. I pretend that I’m driving the whole thing—making decisions, making plans, making my case for my decisions and plans. In reality, the warning signs are actually inconsequential to the final outcome. Just having the information ahead of time doesn’t exempt us from trouble and surprises.
These deep thoughts were my morning ponderings as I watched the eastern sky go from black to charcoal. Clouds began to materialize as the sun lit them from its perch just below the horizon. Slowly the sky lightened to a cobalt blue and I could see more clearly. I shifted in my seat behind the wheel of our minivan, feeling a little more alert and grateful for constants, like a good, old-fashioned sunrise, that I can always count on.
“Thank you,” I whispered. I silently prayed for wisdom and patience in all of the burdens I’ve been lugging around with me for the last few months. The heavy ones that are old and should’ve been forgotten long ago, and the new ones I’ve picked up in the form of worry and doubt. I asked the Lord to protect us from these dangers that I know, the ones I’m currently aware of. Then I asked Him to save me from the Swamp Bears that I’ll never see coming.