South African men eat more meat than we do. But during my 12 days in Pretoria, I wasn’t jealous of this fact. I was however, immensely envious of the range of meats they have on offer. I ate Springbok, Ostrich and an Ox heart. I could feel myself becoming more bloodthirsty as the weeks went on. I wanted to walk around chewing on a wild boar’s leg whilst staring at my fellow man and encouraging him to do the same. (I was obviously moved to tears at so many other things over there, including the Apartheid Museum, the faithfulness and generosity of the locals and some of the horrific events which have caused so much pain in what is now a free South Africa. But my blogs are seldom conventional, and this will be no different).
My girlfriend and I went to park which had lions hanging about. Back in Wales we have teenagers throwing themselves off the park swings as part of a game called “Swing Me”. In South Africa they have parks specifically for Lions. I stood about 10 metres from one lion with a fence between us. The lion, lets call him Luther, was tearing at a lump of meat which was previously attached to a living animal. It looked quite impressive on the parched African soil with it’s mane dripping in blood and dust. But to be honest with you, as I stood at a distance watching this animal lying down, I honestly thought I could take it in a fight.
My girlfriend doesn’t understand why some men have to ask themselves if they could slaughter an animal with their bare hands. I guess it goes back to when men had to hunt to survive as opposed to tap dancing in the aisles of Tesco.
It was moving very slowly as it digested it’s dinner, and in it’s horizontal position it didn’t look that muscular. I sarcastically enquired if the lion was fully grown, and was told that it was. The thought that I could take the lion in a fight, soon turned to a should, as I pondered the fame and recognition I would gain amongst my new South African friends.
My plan to attack the animal was forming in my mind when something utterly terrifying occurred. The lion stood up. (It was much bigger standing up.) There was more chance of me growing natural dreadlocks than winning a fight against Luther. He was so unfazed by my presence, that he never once looked at me. The fact is that nothing scares a lion, and so it never has to look at anything it doesn’t want to.
As I took a few steps away from the fence of humility, I had another thought. So many of my friends who do not follow Jesus, have a very similar impression of God. They talk to me about the God they don’t believe in and describe a horizontal, quiet, overestimated being which has a much bigger reputation than it deserves.
Let me tell you something I’ve been realising recently. My God has stood up. I look at what Jesus did for me on the cross and what he won for me at the resurrection, and I see a God that has stood up.
My encounter with Luther, albeit short and inconsequential, left me thinking about what sort of God I describe to my friends and family. A God who can be taken in a fight by some odd Welsh boy or someone which is well worth a second glance?