I Finally Saw A Bear

Her first words to the surgeon were, “Please call my mother back in Denver and tell her I finally saw a bear!”

In July of 2009, a friend and I were camped not far from a salmon hot spot near Cooper’s Landing, Alaska, on the Kenai Peninsula. We’d just stowed our portable gas grill and were unpacking our sleeping bags for the night when an ambulance came flying by, sirens wailing. I looked at my friend, who cocked his eyebrows as he said, “Either there’s been a wreck, or someone got hammered by a bear.”

At 7:00 the following morning, we walked across the road to the local bait shop. When the owner saw us coming, he stepped out from behind the glass counter, stopped tying a pink popper fly, looked at us with wild eyes and said, “Hey, did you hear a woman got mauled by a brown bear last night less than a half mile away? I guess she’d just arrived here from Denver to work for the summer at one of the gift shops – went out to smell the flowers about ten o’clock last night and surprised a brown bear with a really bad attitude.”

Being men, of course the first thing we did was get in our truck and drive to the spot where the mauling had occurred. Walking down the path towards the site of the attack, there was a sign posted on the trail head: “Warning! If you are hiking or backpacking into the wilderness, it’s important to be on the lookout for bears. We highly recommend you wear a large jingle bell on your pack to signal to the bears you’re in their area, and also carry a large canister of bear pepper spray. It is also advised that you be familiar with the difference between black bear scat and brown bear scat. Black bear scat is full of small animal fur and berry seeds, while brown bear scat is full of jingle bells and smells like pepper spray!” Great – just what I needed – more unhealthy fodder for my brain.

When we arrived at the exact spot of the attack, there was a freshly cut pile of alder bush branches covering the trail so that tourists couldn’t see any remnants of the occurrence. After taking pictures of the location, the two of us went into the gift shop (where this young woman had been working) to try to get an interview with someone who had seen the event or had the story first hand. Reluctantly, an older woman behind the counter gave us this story:

It was last night around ten o’clock when Debbie walked around the back of the shop to smell a patch of flowers. That’s when it happened. For whatever reason, the male brown bear spooked and instantly attacked. A man and his daughter were visiting here at the time, and said that at first they thought someone was just laughing uncontrollably behind the shop. When the man went to see what was so funny, he saw the bear standing upright, holding Debbie in its mouth by her head. He immediately yelled for his daughter to call 911 and he began shouting and throwing things at the bear. The bear reluctantly dropped her before it could shake her like a rag doll, and the young woman was rushed by ambulance to a helicopter that life-flighted her back to Anchorage. The gift shop worker told us that the one thing Debbie wanted to see while in Alaska was a brown bear, as she’d never seen a bear in the wilds. Well, she got her wish. We were told that after hundreds of stitches to her scalp, she came out of surgery at 3:00 AM. Her first words to the surgeon were, “Please call my mother back in Denver and tell her I finally saw a bear!” I’m not sure those would have been my first words …

How is it that some people can take a very difficult situation and somehow find humor, or a lesson in the middle of the trial? There’s a verse I’ve come to hold on to in difficult circumstances that has seen me through in my toughest times.

“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size— abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (the Message)


Read the following verse aloud and answer the question: “Where in my life is this verse connecting right now, and what revelations in my life is the Holy Spirit showing me through this verse?

. . . when troubles come my way, I consider it an opportunity for great joy. For I know that when my faith is tested, my endurance has a chance to grow. So I let it grow, for when my endurance is fully developed, I will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4, NLT)

Brent Henderson

Welcome to Men Unleashed! This is a place for encouragement and devotionals from Brent.