As a parent of three children, there’s no limit to the lengths I’m willing to go to protect and provide for my children. When someone or something threatens my people, my normally placid and calm demeanor turns, shall we say, crazed. “How dare you threaten or bully my child!” I shriek. I become 10 feet tall and as intimidating as an approaching freight train. Where does this force and fury originate? The desire to ensure the survival of the future generations of our species is built into our DNA.
It’s also built into the DNA of bears.
Bears: What to Expect
There’s a reason we refer to the protective, impassioned mother (me) as “mama bear”—the love of a mother bear is fierce.
The 2014 nature documentary from Disneynature, Bears (available on Disney+), follows the journey of a brown bear, Sky, and her two cubs, Scout and Amber, from their den nestled in the Alaskan mountains down to the Pacific coast and back again. They are in search of nourishment and encounter a wide range of threats from other predators and competitors who are also hungry after the long winter.
Narrated by the lovable voice of John C. Reilly (my kids quickly recognized him for his voice talent as Ralph in Wreck-It Ralph), you and your family will witness the playful and humorous love between siblings, the attentive and sacrificial love of a parent, and the mercies and provision present in the vast interconnectedness of the natural world.
Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing
Sky travels long distances to protect and provide for her cubs who, for the most part, are pretty oblivious to what their mom is willing to do for their survival. Isn’t that parenthood to a tee? I began to understand the provisions of the Father far more once I gained the perspective of a parent. God the Father is forever making a way through love for all of humanity.
The migratory patterns of animals mimic our own spiritual journeys. The Bible is filled with travelers who leave their home country to follow the call of their God into promised lands. Called by hunger and necessity out of their den, Sky and her cubs are strangers in a strange land, like Moses in the desert when he bears his son, Gershom (Exodus 2:22). So much of our lives are spent traveling through the territory of other bears and predators, trying to make a way for our own survival. We step into the spiritual wilderness, hungry and thirsty for righteousness and truth, and God meets us there.
Along the journey, Sky teaches her cubs where to find food and how to hunt. She turns over rocks and digs in the mud. She uncovers clams and catches fish and her cubs attempt the same. She is patient with them, just as the Lord is patient with us, not wanting any of us to perish, but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Again and again in Scripture, God provides a way for his people, from manna in the desert, to a plant to shelter Jonah, to Elijah’s raven in the wilderness, to Jesus feeding the 5,000. God has a way of providing just what is needed.
The bears encounter all kinds of predators and bullies as they migrate from the high peaks of the mountains down to the ocean coast and along spring tributaries, on the hunt for salmon. Two male bears in particular are hungry and looking for easy prey. They are willing to hurt others in order to survive.
This is where the mama bear in me comes alive, and I hear the echo of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees and disciples who are listening: “But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck” (Matthew 18:6 MSG). When it comes to protecting my children from bullies, a fierce sense of justice rises from the depths of my gut, and I am a mama bear, barricading my cubs from their enemies.
Sky does whatever she can to provide for her cubs, emptying herself for their survival, the same way Jesus emptied himself so that we might live (1 Peter 2:24). And when the cubs try to defend themselves but can’t, they call for the higher power of their mother to rescue them, the same way we might call out to God, “Hasten, O God, to save me, come quickly, Lord, to help me” (Psalm 70:1 NIV).
The documentary Bears is a beautiful journey of motherhood that simultaneously reflects the love and provision of God. Watch, and be encouraged to love fiercely those you’ve been given to protect.