I thought perhaps I remembered “Going on a Bear Hunt” from my own kindergarten or grade school experience. It appears I grabbed it from my children’s primary school time, since, upon investigation, the song gained popularity in the late 1980s. The whole set of lyrics—until I looked it for this writing—escaped me. Except this part, “We can’t go over it, We can’t go under it, We gotta go through it.” That part stuck.
We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no! We got to go through it. It keeps repeating. When we visited our adult daughters last week, it surfaced as we talked about what it means to grow up. When we returned to Denver, we entered a conversation with the one still at home. As we talked about what it means to grow up, those three lines played like a soundtrack. I'm finding it applicable to all manner of current items on my list, trivial and non-trivial alike.
We are taught to arrive. Set goals and meet them. Not a bad plan. The steps help, the 3-10 steps to anything, but we seem to value the markers and the checked box more than what is in between and throughout. The mess and even the surprising joy of what the steps entail, that bit we rush through to arrive at the destination.
We forget that we are in process. We aren’t taught, don't learn, don't like to learn the slow work. We don’t trust what Eugene Peterson calls a long obedience in the same direction. We are far more comfortable with what one of my praying friends used to call a quick work. We crave a speedy transit to complete virtue, proficiency, perfection.
A few nights back, I sat at the kitchen table with a friend. We talked about the slow-growing glory of counseling. She's been at it for some time. I'm back at it again. As we shared our current lessons and points of challenge and growth and what those elements ask of us, the bear hunt became a watchword, something we laughed about and then amen-ed.
Being a person isn't easy business. I find it especially tiring when I'm pummeling myself for not having attained completeness. I know I've worn out others around me with that learned mindset. (Lord, have mercy. Friends, have mercy.) I'm on a road, a bear hunt if you will. There's grace for the learning, the slashing through the tall grasses, for slogging through the mud, for wading through the water. I can't go over it. I can't go under it. I've got to go through it.