It has been some time since I made a personal entry on this blog. Much has happened since the last one. My son Matthew is now a strapping 18 year-old All-Star pitcher and Honors student actively in the hunt for a college baseball scholarship. As he finishes his Junior year with Final Exams this week, he has been faced with difficult challenges on all fronts including academics, athletics (facing showcase tourney teams loaded with D-1 commits who can absolutely HIT the ball), and the unexpected, sudden ending to a meaningful personal relationship (nuf ced).
In the midst of this, I gave him a Navajo bear-claw ring which I had originally purchased for myself a generation ago while dealing with overwhelming loss. At that time it was a symbol of inner strength to me, and I wanted to pass it along from father to son as a token of strength for him in this difficult yet all-important time of his life.
Anyone who is the parent of an 18 year-old can appreciate that the depth of my intended meaning in this act might not be fully appreciated for what it is, but giving this ring is a Sacramental: an outward and visible sign of an inner and spiritual thing. Therefore, here is what I mean to say to my son who embodies so much Promise:
“Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.”
For Native Americans, the Bear is a life-giving Mother icon: Fiercely protective, clever, quick, big and powerful. A Native American with the word “bear” in their name was considered to be both an excellent provider and a powerful warrior.
For young men still discovering themselves and baseball pitchers in particular, the Bear represents many valuable personal qualities including power, courage, confidence, victory, freedom, protection, discernment, resourcefulness and unpredictability.
Yet in spite of its size and power, the Bear also prefers peace and tranquility which represent harmony and balance.
Be a noble Beast within yourself. Be the Bear.