Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Neighbearhood alert!

IF THE APOSTLE Peter lived in our neighborhood, then part of the New Testament would read a little differently, I suspect. In his first epistle, he probably wouldn’t warn Christians that the enemy of their souls “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” He’d talk about a bear.

Living right on the edge of a large swathe of state forest, we knew that there were black bears out there. In fact, one had been snapped strolling down our street by the previous owner of our house—the accompanying photo was taken from the deck—a few months before we moved in.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it attacked someone just a few hundreds yard from our front door. The guy had stepped out at night to exercise his dog when he was jumped by a bear estimated to weigh around 350 lb.—the first recorded attack in the area. Thankfully, he escaped with a scratch but his poor dog got chewed up a bit.

Since then the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has set up two traps in the neighborhood (using donuts as bait), and sent out guidelines on what to do to avoid becoming a bear snack.

For me that has included taking no more runs through the woods until Yogi is relocated. I’d actually bought some pepper spray not long before the attack, just in case, but now figure if I happened across him, he’d likely just clap his paws and think, “Oh good, you brought seasoning!”

The bear alert warnings have also made me think about the spiritual caution we are given in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

I think that if he were my neighbor, Peter would add the following to his warning:

Watch your steps. We’ve been told to be careful where we go; wandering out into the woods is of course only asking for trouble. Avoiding places that put you at risk simply makes sense. Don’t let your eyes or mind meander where they have no right to be going.

Check the times. Early morning and late at night—also known as bear meal time—are particular danger points for being out and about. We might find ourselves exposed to risk at some times more than others, too. The recovery community’s red flag acronym HALT—hungry, angry, lonely, tired—is a helpful reminder of occasions when we might be more vulnerable.

Deal with trash. Our bear has been going through trash cans like they are a buffet bar, so we have been told not to leave them out and make sure they’re secure when they are. Our personal garbage needs handling well, too: unconfessed sin separates us from God, from ourselves, and from others. The enemy can smell our isolation like a piece of rotting fish.

Make a noise. Slapping your feet on the ground when you walk and whistling are supposed to help because it’s advance warning: you don’t want to startle a bear. We can keep the enemy at a distance with what comes out of our mouths, whether that’s the truth of God’s Word or singing His praises. That’s like a high-pitched whistle to Satan’s ears.

Care for others. Safety is a group concern. Walking Woodley one morning a week or so after the attack, a neighbor driving by stopped and rolled the window down to tell us there’d just been another sighting. You can bet Woodley and I hurried home. Let’s have an eye out for others and be willing to pause and warn them if we think they might be in danger—and be ready to hear when people stop us in our tracks to urge that we proceed with caution.

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