Lion Tamers

I am a sucker for documentaries, always have been, always will be. Sometimes they leave me intrigued and engaged, sometimes they leave me disgusted and frustrated. But no documentary will ever leave me in shock and awe like one I watched years ago about Big Cats in Captivity.

Essentially, the documentary exposed the fact that there were more big cats (think lions, tigers, leopards, oh my!) living in private homes and yards than in zoos in the United States. Reporters with cameras went into people’s back yards or chain-link-fence-enclosures or even living rooms and filmed these wild animals living in and among families. Crazy town.

While I don’t even remember the name of the documentary, I cannot help but remember, with fear and trembling, the image of a small child sleeping in a bunk bed, wrapped up in the tremendous claws of a large tiger.

Lions, tigers, and their cat kin command our attention and demand our awe. They are stunning, powerful, and fascinating. As such, I can see how people are drawn to them; however, they were never intended to be tamed and controlled. Just ask Siegfried & Roy.

Initially I wanted to laugh at these attempted lion tamers on the documentary, but by the credits, I found myself silent. I saw in their idiotic and dangerous attempts to domesticate that which was meant to be wild my own attempts to do likewise with God.

C.S. Lewis captures this perfectly in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when the children ask the Beavers if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

A tamed tiger who can cuddle in our bed. A safe God who does things as we please without disturbing our lives. Both sound lovely, yet attempts to domesticate these wildly strong and beautiful beings take the terror and beauty out of that which is meant to be terribly beautiful.

I attempt to tame God and the gospel by making life and obedience into a formula. “If I do x, they you do y” or “If I read these books and pray these prayers, then my children won’t suffer” or “If I am faithful to you, you will give me a life of ease and comfort.” But we weren’t made for religion and rulebooks, we were made for relationship and adventure with God who is both Lion and Lamb.

It would be far easier to serve a tame and safe God, then it is to serve God as He is, gentle yet sovereign, kind yet fierce.

Dorothy Sayers perfectly describes our attempts at domesticating Jesus to make him more palatable to our tastes and inclinations.

“The people responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus never accused him of being a bore – on the contrary: they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with a yawning ho-hum atmosphere of tedium. We have efficiently trimmed the claws of the lion of Judah, certified him ‘Meek and Mild’ and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”

A shattering personality. Too dynamic to be safe. This is our God. He is disruptive, yet He brings true peace. He commands respect and demands submission, yet He is tender and forgiving.

Rather than seeking to tame the Lion of Judah, I desperately need my passions and pleasures, hopes and failures to be tamed by Him and His great love.

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