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The Hunter & The Beast

By Shawn Small
In Formed
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Our safari was a dream-come-true-ending to our time in South Sudan. I was directing a short documentary for Water is Basic about a twelve-year-old girl, Jina, who walked six miles a day to collect enough water to keep her family alive. After two intense weeks of shooting footage with my small team in a remote Sudanese village, we were ready for an adventure. Every day we took in nature’s masterpiece. Breakfast on the plains in the cool of the morning as migrating herds passed without a care or sitting silently in stopped vehicles during the dead of night observing two dozen elephants crossing in front of us with nary a peep was magnificent. My favorite experience was the lion hunt.

Sitting in the dusty truck on the Maasai Mara in Kenya, I watched a mother lion stalk and capture a baby warthog with surprising stealth and speed. Picking up the flailing, screeching piglet in her jaws, she violently shook it until it lay limp. I thought she had shaken it dead. She carried the sagging carcass to a patch of tall yellowed grass where three small camouflaged cubs emerged in roly-poly playfulness. The lioness dropped the piglet and sat down with a thump to watch as the piglet worked itself out of its stupor.

In the blink of an eye, the juvenile warthog was up and running for its life. The cubs followed in half-hearted pursuit. When the cubs could not catch the terrified piglet, their mother swooped in, catching it again before carrying it back to the grass. This process of catch, shake, carry and release continued for a half an hour until the cubs, bored with their hunting lessons, refused the give chase. To my surprise, the lioness allowed the young warthog to leave, limping, broken and bruised, but still alive.

Like the lioness, we have a beast that stalks us at times in our lives when we are vulnerable or hurt. It waits until we are exposed before it pounces and shakes us until we feel dead. When our beast has us in the grip of its jaws, our view of the world is skewed and blurred, causing us to wander in apprehension rather than wonder in amazement. When the beast grows bored, it lets us go until its next hunt. As we limp away, our perspective of the world changes.

This year feels like we’ve all been hunted by beasts. The monsters in our minds emerge with our knowledge that the world can be painful. As wonder fades, we squint into the gathering darkness and conjure shapes in the shadows. Our imaginations, catalysts of wonder, turn inward and convince us of the beasts aiming for our destruction. The gathering darkness blinds us from the marvels, laughter and love in our lives and the future.

Both legitimate and unfounded fears smother our wonder. Our beasts become insatiable, hijacking our thoughts until we are trapped in our anxieties. As we sit fretting behind the thin walls we construct, we convince ourselves that if we don’t venture out too far, we’ll never be hurt again. We replace curiosity with security in a desperate attempt to make ourselves invulnerable, but the trade-off is devastating. Our world shrinks as our longing for hope and peace dries and cracks like arid farmland. We lose sight of the vast beauty of the world. The shadows of ‘what might happen’ become walls holding us back from discovering the hidden gift of wonder and hope the Creator longs to present to us.

I’ve been stalked by a beast along with everyone else on the planet in 2020. At times, I have found myself sitting on my back porch soaked in tears of frustration, or wrestling with anxious fears of the future, searching for answers and coming up with nothing. One day, it hit me. The beast stalking me is too big, too scary, too powerful for me. I remembered a promise from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about foggy, fuzzy times when you don’t know what to do or how to battle the invisible beasts stalking your mind.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through

a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines

bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing

him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do

to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope

unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

In this promise, I rediscovered wonder. Wonder is resilient. Though we might stuff it down, pack it up and hide it away in the deepest recesses of our soul, wonder remains a tinder box ready for a spark to ignite it back to life. This promise in 1 Corinthians 13 sparked wonder in me. I don’t need to know the future. I don’t live in the future. I live in the now. I can trust God today. Tomorrow has enough troubles of its own.

His direction is clear.

I must release my fears and anxieties to the One who is the Alpha and the Omega. I ask God to take those beasts and to teach me to trust. As I begin to trust I find unswerving hope. Not just hope for me or my family, but hope for others, for the world and for the future. Then I look for ways, today, now, to love others like Christ loves me, extravagantly. We bring the gift of wonder, of overwhelming joy, when we love others extravagantly. Loving others takes the focus off us. Our extravagant, practical acts of love show others there is no monster under the bed, no beast that can take them down.

I’ve made a decision I hope you’ll also make. I refuse to be stalked by the beast any longer. No longer the hunted but become the hunter. As I trust in the Lord, hope in His Word and extravagantly love others, I learn what the peace of God that passes all understanding means in my life.

Who’s ready to hunt beasts stalking others in the world?


FORMED

God is calling us, the people of Irving Bible Church, to become a multi-ethnic movement of missionary disciples, formed in the way of Jesus for the sake of the world.

We want to be a transformed people who experience vibrant spiritual growth together. We want the Spirit of God to shape us more and more into the likeness of Jesus as we follow him.

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