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The first full day after we arrived, we went out to “meet” the lions . . . well, in my case, the three ten-month-olds that you see in the picture with me… Chando, Amandla, and Chabalala (left to right). I knew absolutely nothing about lions at this time since I had been there less than 24 hours and most of that time was spent sleeping, but I did know that they were wild animals, so I was supposed to be afraid.
However, this was picture day. All new volunteers had their pictures taken with one of the sets of lions on their first day, and after watching my niece and a couple of others get their pictures taken… and not get eaten… I lost some of my initial trepidation. Plus, there were two guides, a trainer, and a guy with a gun… and I, of course, had a stick! What could go wrong? (The theory behind the stick was that like any cat, lions are easily distracted, so if one of them were to start for me, I was to wiggle the stick and the lion would see it, forget about me, and go for it… yeah, right… but I bought into it.)
As you can see, I have lived to tell the tale, but that is not the point I wish to share. My point is that by the end of my three weeks, after I had learned all about the lions, and how to behave around them, and how to become a part of their pride and show dominance… after I watched them behave like the wild animals they really were, I don’t think I would have sat for that picture, because now I had a healthy respect for and fear of them again.
That first day I believed I was safe because I saw men standing there ready to protect me, and I watched others have their pictures taken and leave unharmed. But that was a belief born out of ignorance. By the end of my stay I was much wiser.
I think we often approach temptation and sin in a very similar way. We have that initial healthy fear of it, but then we see others escape unscathed and perhaps even see an environment of relative safety or acceptance, so we go ahead and “take a seat.” If we are lucky or prayerful, hopefully wisdom comes before harm does, and we once again gain a healthy respect for the dangers that exists.