I’m pretty much a nerd. At best I’m an old soul. I guess that’s why I really enjoy watching the BBC’s many fantastic documentary series’ on animals and nature. Planet Earth and The Human Planet were both incredibly beautiful. Most recently I’ve been watching Life Story, a series focusing on the different phases of life within the animal kingdom.
In one of the episodes, an unsuspecting impala is stalked by two young cheetahs. The impala is exhausted after the weeks of fighting that precede mating season and seeks a moment of repose in a stunningly beautiful patch of trees (imagine the dramatic music starting to build).
In the quintessential stalking scene (which are of course the favorites in nature documentaries) the stealthy cheetahs creep steadily closer to the grazing animal. He picks his head up once or twice to look around but doesn’t seem terribly bothered, not knowing he is in his final moments of life. The cheetahs strike and…well, you know the rest.
I love these shows because they move me to worship. For example, did you know that meerkat colonies have a leadership structure based on those with more wisdom and experience? Or that hermit crabs line up by size and do a “house trade” for bigger shells when a new one washes on the shore? How about an octopus that can use an abandoned coconut shell as a shield against predators? I watch all of these creatures with their complex patterns of survival, leadership and courtship and think “Wow…God designed all that!”
As I was watching the poor impala in his imminent demise, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking. He may just be a creature of pure instinct, but I wonder if there was a thought in there somewhere. Did he know he was being hunted? Did he think about the danger that was lurking? Does an animal’s life flash before his eyes in that dramatic chase?
As modern Americans, most of us don’t face the daily reality that we may be killed by hostile predators. It’s hard to imagine what that would be like physically, but the Bible does tell us that we are being hunted by a powerful enemy. 1 Peter 5:8 says “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” I don’t know about you, but don’t often live like that is real.
There are seasons, however, when the reality of the prowling lion comes piercing through. You know the lion is real when you’re running for your life. Recently I have felt that spiritual weight in some ordinary situations and some (painfully) unusual ones. To be a Christian is to be hunted. Signing up for God’s work means you have a target on your back.
The good news is twofold: (1) we know we have an enemy so we, unlike an instinct-bound animal, are able to discern when we are being stalked and take the appropriate action; (2) we have a victorious Savior who has already decisively and finally defeated our enemy. Thus we can fight (or sometimes flee) without fear of being completely destroyed.
I guess you never know where God might speak to you, even in a nature documentary. So don’t forget you’re in a fight. Take shelter in the only Hope you have for survival.