“Alright, kids,” I announced dramatically as we took another turn along the winding path. “Fasten your safety belts, ’cause now we’re in for the Big One.”
Dan, one of the kids with me, raised a hand, “But Uncle, we’re not in a car. We don’t have safety belts.”
I blinked. “It’s, uh…just a, uh… a figure of speech,” I muttered, hoping none of the kids noticed my failed trial at a dramatic intro. But Tolu, the older brother at fourteen, looked up from his iPhone and smirked. Nothing gets past that kid. Hopefully he’d get something out of today’s fieldtrip. Getting him to talk was always quite a chore.
The day at the zoo had been my idea of a fun time with my sister’s kids during the holidays. It would be another opportunity to show them some of the amazing creatures God had made, answer questions, and provide good conversation starters.
“Are we gonna see the Lion now?” Grace, Dan’s twin, asked.
“Uh-huh,” I nodded.
They cheered. Well, all except Tolu. Hmm…
But I was not moved. We were in for the main attraction, the piéce de resistance — the Lion! Which kid would not like to see a lion?
We were now just beside its cage. With the excitement built up in me, I turned to them. “Who’s the King of the Jungle?”
“Yes, though they actually don’t live in ‘jungles’, you know.”
“Yeah,” Dan added. “They live in the Savanna!”
I was impressed. “Where’d you learn that?”
He shrugged. “Lion King.”
Grace put in. “I love how lions have those cool manes around their heads.”
I winced. “Those would be male lions.”
“Like Mufasa?” Dan asked.
I exhaled. How many movies did these kids watch? “Yes, like Mufasa. And Simba too, as a grown-up.”
“And Sc–” I stopped. Scar wasn’t exactly fan-friendly material for these kids.
So I continued my exposition, to the delight of the twins. I noticed that Tolu was now paying attention. “Lions live in groups called prides. When they go hunting –well, only the females hunt (“The ones without manes?” Grace asked, and I nodded)–, all the antelope and wildebeest have to SCRAM! for their lives, or the lions would eat them up.”
I launched into an account of a shot I’d seen on Animal Planet of a stand-off between lions and a team of rhinos over a waterhole. Perhaps I was a little carried away, but the wide-eyed wonder-filled gazes of the twins kept me going. It took Tolu’s deliberately loud sigh to get my attention.
“Is there something you want, Tolu?” I asked, annoyed at his interruption.
“When do we actually get to SEE the lion, Uncle?”
In spite of myself, I knew the boy was right. Man, I HATE it when he does that! But I needed it, too. I patted his shoulder and smiled. “You’re right, Benny. Let’s go see the Lion.”
Dan and Grace gripped my hands as we approached the cage in silence.
And then we saw it. Through the mesh of the netting, in the darkness beyond, we saw the huge mound of beige flesh reclining. Perhaps it heard our footsteps approaching, for we were suddenly jolted by two tiny glistening orbs that suddenly appeared. It’s eyes. They shone with the reflection of daylight from outside as it stared at us.
A sense of awe and wonder gripped me, making me recall scenes from Narnia when the Pevensies stood before Aslan.
And then it sat up with a grunt echoing in its concrete cell, and took two pounding steps toward the netting.
I could hear Dan whining beside me, “Mummy…mummy…mummy…”
Grace’s grip on my hand tightened.
“It can’t come near us, don’t worry,” I said reassuringly.
I stole a glance at Tolu and he turned to me. I gave him a ‘how-cool-is-this’ look, arching a brow.
He simply shrugged. The ‘I’ve-seen-better’ shrug.
Now I was frustrated. “Oh, COME ON! You–” What would get this kids attention? A spitting contest down the Grand Canyon?!
But I was suddenly cut off by the most ear-splitting sound I had ever heard. It ran down my spine, taking over my being. The kids screamed in its wake.
The Lion was roaring.
We hurried away from the cage, but Tolu remained, frozen at the spot. That KID! I was torn between calming the twins and pulling Tolu away from the cage.
Other visitors to the zoo hurried over to see what was going on.
The roar subsided as the crowd gathered. I grabbed Tolu and yelled in his face, “Are you OK?!”
He had a blank stare for a moment, still shaken. And then he said, “That…was…AWESOME!”
And he meant it too.
That made my day.
Sometimes, we get carried away with how much we know about God. But what we need, what our friends and family need, what this world needs, is to know the Savior Himself, for themselves. It will change them.
There is nothing like standing in the Lion’s roar.
To feel His breath
As it shakes you to the core.
To bask in His Love and His awesome touch
As He soothingly tells you, “I love you very much.”