A Zoo’s Pondering (part one): Made for the Roar

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27).

I’ve been to the zoo this week. No, not the one that currently shares my mailing address but, instead, the one that includes real animals. The Asheboro Zoo.

It has been eight years since my last visit. I imagine it will be at least another eight before I muster the “want to” to go again. On this occasion, my “want to” was largely based on my children’s desire. With dad out of the country, I thought it a good occasion to make our pilgrimage. It was. Sort of.

Good because…

*My parents made the trip with us.
*The crowds were way down.
*It was relatively cheap entertainment.
*It wore my kids out (not to mention their three chaperones).
*The animals provided enough fodder for a week’s worth of blogging.

Less good because…

*The temperatures soared to 90+ degrees.
*The real life habitats (while ideal for the animals) required a great deal of walking.
*The animals were apparently notified of the heat and the diminishing crowds and responded accordingly.
*Worn out kids make for ill-fitted companions.
*If you’re not into pondering the sacred possibilities of a zoo’s visit, I may lose you as a reader.

Zoos are not God’s design. They are man’s way of containing and controlling some species that were originally designed for life without boundaries. They’re not evil. They’re simply not perfect. In a perfect world, animals and man cohabitate as one. In a fallen world, they separate and live as individual.

I noticed this tension more profoundly with my visit. Perhaps it is my age. When younger, my fear of the unknown warranted and validated the separation. But as I have matured, so has my desire for some unity with God’s creatures. I want to touch and to talk with and to tend them with the familiarity that was first birthed in a garden. I want the bars of our separation to disappear and the freedom of Eden to breathe its return upon this soil.

But what I want awaits another season—a time when God finally clarifies the matter within beast and man alike. Thus, I’m left with cages and confinement and contemplation at a distance. And the contemplation that most deeply stirs my spirit this night is the realization that…

Cages breed lethargy. Confinement breeds less than.

What I wanted to see was a roaring lion.

What I saw instead was this.

The king of the created four-footers was hot and tired. He had no use for the onlookers and even less use for the roar bottled up within his seemingly gaunt frame. No amount of my cajoling could rouse him from his lethargy. He is simply living as he is parametered.

Less than.

This the way of man’s confinement. It always lives as captive and breeds a posture of defeat. An imperfect existence. A functional one, but never the perfection that God intended on the front end of things.

What God intends for his created is freedom. A posture of victory. An existence that exceeds function to breed and to breathe the truth of a lavish grace that brings all creatures to a completed and perfected end.

He means for us to roar and to take ownership of the liberty that is ours in Jesus Christ. Bars and cages and control have no place inside the kingdom that belongs to the King. For…

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1).

A high price was paid for our emancipation. Walking the value of such a sacred exchange is left up to us. We can allow man his framing of our existence or we can stand firm in the freedom that comes to us through the framing of the cross. Christ willingly embraced man’s confinement via two wooden beams, but even then, nails and timber could not hold him…not forever. They simply held him long enough for love’s redeeming work to walk its course.

And when that course was finished, the Lion of the tribe of Judah had some roar still bottled up within. On the third day, he allowed it the voice that reverberates freedom’s battle cry two thousand years down the road. He broke the chains of confining sin and death so that we could chorus our roar in unison with his. Our choice in the matter remains exactly that. Ours.

We can choose our less than or we can throw our head back, open our mouths, and sound the victory that echoes loud and large and as an everlasting witness to the liberty found in Jesus Christ alone.

I don’t know about you, but that is some sacred possibility drawn from a visit to the zoo. It is something that’s got me thinking tonight and so I pray…

Thank you, Father, for the gift of perspective…for a lesson from a lion. You knew how it would speak even before it was voiced. Keep me from my lethargy and less than, and move me toward the freedom that is mine because of your confinement at Calvary. Thank you for your created creatures that breathe the witness of your magnificent plan. Brings us all to our everlasting that will walk without parameters and that will allow us to live as one. Amen.

Copyright © July 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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26 Responses to A Zoo’s Pondering (part one): Made for the Roar

  1. Elaine,

    I came by just for a quick second and ended up staying for quite awhile!

    Goodness you can write.

    Thank you for this post about the lion and the “Less than” spiritual life. I don’t want that life for me. When I die I want as few regrets as possible. I want to tell my family that my life was more than I could have imagined and then I want to step into the arms of my Jesus.

    I refuse to live a life of spiritual mediocrity. It can sometimes make for some humbling moments but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Just this morning in my quite time I was reading Acts, about how after Peter and John helped to heal the lame man and the angel came and released them from prison. The guards found them preaching in the temple when they should have still been in chains.

    Now that is a life of “More than”!

    Blessings my friend, Joanne

  2. WOW Elaine! Thank you so much. I love going to the zoo and next time I take my little nephew (When it gets cooler, 100+ here in Dallas today)I’ll spend a little longer with the lion and praising God.

    This article hit the spot. I have been praying for more passion and excitement for God and his Word. My quiet time study the last few morning has been on the beatitude “Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, for they will be filled”. Then I came by your blog this morning and was priviledged to read this article. If that doesn’t fire me up, I don’t know what will.


  3. Elaine,

    I was thinking about the roar that we issue from with-in when we UNDERSTAND, GRASP & WALK-IN VICTORY.

    Being lethargic is no way to fight the enemy, for we have no strength to battle the enemy.



  4. This reminds me of some lyrics from an old Eagles song called “Already Gone.” ~

    ~”So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
    And we never even know we have the key”~

    Wonderful observations!
    God Bless,

  5. I echoed your prayer. My life has mirrored that picture of the lion living ‘less than’ for so long, it is hard to envision that lion that roars in total freedom. Yet it is what my soul longs for. Thank you.
    Love, Sita

  6. Thanks so much for that Elaine, I don’t want to live a life of “less than”. I want to embrace the victory that Christ bought me at Calvary. As you looked upon the Lion that was living a life of “less than”… possibly not realizing that there was another life that was meant for him… I think of how God longs for us to realize the life that He created us for… and it was never a life of “less than” but a life of joy and abundance. Thanks so much for sharing your zoo experience with us… leaves me with lots to think about today.

  7. Wow, Elaine! What a brilliant post!

    The verse at the beginning of your post caught my attention, because our first day of homeschooling was today, we are studying Creation this week (I posted about it on my blog).

    I loved the analogy you made between the caged animals and the imprisonment of a sin-filled life and how you contrasted that with the freedom that Jesus gives!

    This post has inspired me to live, not “less than,” but “more abundantly!”

  8. Dear Elaine,

    This must be up for inspirational blog of the year. Where can I nominate you?? What a beautiful post!


  9. Timely! I am struggling to get out of the cage of so-called “humility”… withholding the words that God would have me speak because I am afraid of what might happen… Settling for “less than” for those around me… not sharing the God-given gifts I have.

    You go girl!

  10. Thank you for sharing with us the
    “lesson of the lion”
    The aging process has limited what my body can do, placing me somewhat in confinement and that can definitely bring lethargy! Your post has given me a desire to “arouse myself” and not go to sleep spiritually!

    Thank you also for the comments left on my blog. I don’t know how you do it, but a hug and expression of joy can actually be felt in your writing!

    Just think! I would have never “met” you if I had not started a blog! I am so blessed!


  11. Oh my good gracious. That is a WORD!

    Willing myself to, each day, choose to roar and not curl up to sleep through this life.

    Tucking this one away to savor.


  12. GReat post. I just read Kelley’s comparing the lion to the enemy and his tricks. This “zoo” illustration is a great compliment to that…aren’t we held in captivity and restrained by the enemy, our own guilt, and our sins? Hmmm.

    I love what some others have said so I’ll repeat!

    funny. smiles here.

  13. …We can choose our less than or we can throw our head back, open our mouths, and sound the victory that echoes loud and large and as an everlasting witness to the liberty found in Jesus Christ alone.

    I’m ready to sound that victory!!!

    Once again, this was just awesome…

    By the way, I put something in the mail for you today~


  14. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

    Elaine, this post just echoes my heart cry for freedom and life without boundaries! I don’t want to live “less than”, just “functioning”, but in the freedom that I was created to enjoy.

    You wrote: “He means for us to roar and to take ownership of the liberty that is ours in Jesus Christ. Bars and cages and control have no place inside the kingdom that belongs to the King. For…

    “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1).”


    Can you believe that being born in August, I am a “Leo” (you wouldn’t have guessed would you :o)?

    Starting to roar,

  15. Wanting to roar about the Lion of Judah! May I never settle for lethargy and captivity.
    I loved how your spoke of zoos not being God’s design and of boundaries. Not being evil, but not being perfect. Great illustartion.

    I have said on more than one occasion, in Heaven I want to pet and cuddle with a lion! Could you imagine!?!

  16. Man does confine us..God gives us freedom…I choose freedom. What a blessing it is to come here and linger on your messages from God. You are so blessed my friend.

    In His graces~Pamela

  17. Oh, this is great! My boys felt the same way about the lion (especially) when we visited the Ashboro zoo last time (just a few months ago)…great illustrations! Looking forward to all the zoo visit will teach us!!

  18. I look at that poor board lion just laying there and ask myself if this is me. Or do I stand up and roar from the mountain tops, taking pride in my freedom in Christ Jesus. I think ho-hum, yawn, glance at the crowd, and lay down. It is so much easier to be like that, especially when we put boundaries on our faith, but if you knew me in real time, I am much more like a lion, standing tall on my days. (even if I am just 5’4). Thanks for the thoughts today.

  19. This is so good Elaine! When you wrote “Cages breed lethargy. Confinement breeds less than.” it reminded me that I so often place myself in a self-inflicted cage or confinement because of fear! Even today as I am supposed to leave to go and have therapy on my neck I am debating whether to call and cancel my appointment because thunderstorms are popping up all over and I am so afraid of driving in them! I do NOT want to live in this self-made cage filled with lethargy and less-than! I want to trust more and fear less.

    Keep being you! You’re a blessing.
    Marilyn in MS

  20. Hi Elaine,
    Boy, were these amazing applications! Too often in my life, I’ve been help captive by fear. It has defeated me more times than I can count. I praise God today that little by little, He is strengthening my confidence in HIS sufficiency. The cost Christ paid for my freedom was far too great that I should waste even a moment in doubt or fear! Thank you for this awesome reminder.


  21. Very good Elaine! I always come here when I have free time. I know when I leave I’ll be going having learned something. You’re such a blessing.

  22. I love that God gives you fresh insights with every activity you do….even a trip to the zoo. I would miss things that relate to God there I think and that makes me a bit asamed of myself!
    I stand amazed. God has given you such a gift to see him in everything and to write about it so well!

  23. wifeforthejourney

    our ride is late, we´re going to Lake Titicaca (highest elevation freshwater lake in the world) this a.m. Mission team is tired, but intact. Unlike the zoo animals, Bolivia has been, in many ways a return to the “wilds” of the 1st century Church. We are all glad for hot showers, but the return to La Paz has not been greeted with all the enthusiasm you might expect.

    The best part of our trip has been and will remain Tacachia – cold, contaminated water, an exhausting walk to a distant outhouse. And a people how had had little exposure to the church.

    Bus is here, got to go, plane on time I was wrong,

    Love Billy

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