A few years ago, I accompanied my husband, John, to a week-long technology convention in Las Vegas, where we stayed at the magnificent MGM Grand Hotel. With John in meetings and seminars all day, I was on my own until dinner, free to go-see-do as I pleased. One of my favorite past times was visiting MGM’s Lion Habitat.
One morning, a lone lioness prowled among the rocks and waterfalls. She had a walk of pride, a coat of honey-golden splendor and…an attitude that warned:
I am woman—HEAR ME ROAR.
Tossing her head to and fro, swatting at palms and glaring into zoom lenses, she seemed to have a message. If you’re looking for sweet Elsa from Born Free…well, rent the movie!
Clearly, this lioness had gotten up on the wrong side of rain forest…and my heart went out to her. We all have bad mornings, but for crying out loud, they aren’t captured on film by tourists in flowery, way- too-bright vacation-wear.
Watching, I recalled some of my own not-so-glorious mornings when I, too, have felt like showing my claws. It’s a morning that begins with the phone ringing five minutes before the alarm clock goes off. By the time I convince the persistent caller that I’m truly not the Carpet Castle, the clock really is screaming, sounding more obnoxious than ever.
I stumble downstairs to start the coffee, where I’m greeted by the cat, who sashays against my legs then promptly throws up on the new rug. My oldest son comes down and requests chocolate chip waffles—but he only wants the chips to be half-melted. We go through five Eggo’s and blow an element in the toaster before I get it right. Next, the coffee pot shocks us all, undergoing some sort of spontaneous combustion and sending its black liquid oozing across the white countertop.
I take my sons to school, finding the carpool line in disarray because someone didn’t follow the kiss-drop-go method. No, this perfect mom has parked smack in front of the school, gotten out of her mini van and is patiently helping her four children struggle into their shoes and zip their backpacks. This causes my sons to be late, so I have to go inside to check them in. As the receptionist writes out those tardy slips, I avoid eye contact, knowing that my “I’m-not-getting-out-of-the-car” ensemble—Foghorn-Leghorn hair-do, purple sweat pants and paint-splattered orange work shirt— have just raised the grunge look to a whole new level.
Back home, my husband is standing in the kitchen, shirtless and desperate, looking as though everything he’s worked for hinges on the question he’s about to ask:
“Hey hon, is my white dress shirt back from the cleaners?”
Truthfully, I don’t remember taking the white shirt to the cleaners, so I assure him he looks great in his blue one. Wisely, he doesn’t argue, and refrains from saying how we’d save a fortune on dry cleaning if I didn’t view the iron as a knick-knack on the laundry room shelf. As he puts on the shirt, a button pops off, ricochets down the hall and slides under the 300 pound curio.
Suddenly, I’m dizzy, my head besieged by familiar music. It’s that theme song from Mission Impossible, followed by the words, “This woman will self-destruct in five seconds.”
So…having experienced more than a few mornings like this one, I really could relate to the kind of mood the lioness was caught up in. She was ticked, she was on a roll, and then…something happened.
Her caretaker entered the habitat, smiling and offering a beach ball for play. Gingerly at first, the lioness batted the ball around, but as her tension melted away and she allowed herself to have some fun, she began to play with more vigor. Soon she and her caretaker were in a full-fledged game of volleyball, the lioness leaping about like a prima ballerina in Swan Lake.
What changed? Not her circumstances. She was still in the same environment, still being stared at by goofy, gawking tourists like myself. The change occurred when the caretaker entered the picture—and the lioness focused her eyes on him.
It made me think about our relationship with God—our caretaker.
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3 NIV)
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:2-3, NIV)
Of course, these scripture doesn’t mean that we’ll spring from bed every morning, throw open the window and burst forth with “I’m the Happiest Girl in the Whole USA”. And it doesn’t mean we should try to live by the “don’t sweat the small stuff—and it’s all small stuff” mumbo-jumbo. (Honestly, I’d like to take the guy who dreamed up with that little gem and slap him silly.) Maybe there are people who have never dealt with anything more tying than a rush hour traffic jam, but for a lot of people, life sometimes crashes in with big stuff—really big stuff.
Here’s how I’ve felt led to apply those scriptures: if we keep our eyes focused on the Lord, our circumstances—big or small—lose their power to overwhelm us.
Our circumstances could be the terminal illness of a loved one, the loss of a job, a child being bullied. They could be a dictator boss, a neighbor who reports you to the homeowners association if you’re one day late cutting your grass…or it could be your spirited Black Lab bounding through the front door, slam-dunking the Fed-Ex delivery guy, and treeing your complaining neighbor’s cat high atop a Magnolia.
Big, small or a mixture of both. Ongoing or short-term. Our circumstances can get the better of us, but the Bible promises a way to persevere.
We need only to look upon our Lord, our caretaker.
Well, circumstances require that I sign off for now. My dog is outside having a conniption, and Mr. Meow is hissing from the treetops. As I brace my ladder against the trunk and climb through the leaves and limbs, you’d better believe my eyes will be focused on the Lord!
I remember your sharing this story with me upon your trip's return. I was so impressed that you could parallel the incident with the lioness & her trainer to our keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord. 'no, the circumstances didn't change.....' that part sticks with me. Thank you so much for putting the story in writing and sharing it here with others! May I use this to lead our Tuesday morning Chapel service at work?