Painting Stripes


Somewhere between the scene from the Lion King and the San Antonio Safari all the animals lost their instincts and I found mine.

Kevin and I were in San Antonio for a soccer tournament all weekend. His Sunday game was at 8am and his next game wasn’t until 3pm so I had quite a bit of time to kill. The night before I had looked at all the brochures lined up in the hotel lobby and grabbed a few for ideas.

One of the brochures had a zebra on the cover and my decision was made. Kevin has a deep love for zebras.

After all the cleats, shin guards and goalkeeper gloves were packed up, Kevin and I headed to the drive-thru safari just north of San Antonio. I had very low expectations. I mean, I’ve actually seen these animals in the wild in Africa and so has Kevin.

We drive up to the admissions gate, pay our money, get a couple bags of food and listen to the spiel about staying in our car at all times. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. We will stay in our car, sir.

Slowly we pull onto the 5 mph road behind other safari goers in their cars. The animals are all lining up along the road to eat. Their hay stacks are dotted beside the path of the cars and the smart ones skip that entirely and go straight for the cars where people like us were waiting to toss them food out the window.

It was very manufactured. It was undeniably cheesy but it was magnificent. Buffalo, zebras, antelope of all kinds, all putting their faces up to our windows to greet us. I’ve never been a foot away from a zebra. To see the stripe pattern in their mane so intricate and follow it along their backs down their legs. I was in awe of this zebra by my window.

What an incredible experience to see here what most can only watch from a distance in their native habitat.

Habitat. That’s a unique word. The natural environment for a living organism.

As I sat there in my four door sedan surrounded by four legged creatures, I wondered if they even knew what they were made for. Did they know they were created to be wild? That their stripes were made to blend in not to stand out?

Did they know a savannah even existed?

We had a long ride home that day after Kevin’s last game and we were still talking about how cool the safari was. About twenty minutes into our drive home Kevin fell asleep and left me to my thoughts.

Why do I feel uneasy? Am I like that zebra showing off my stripes as a novelty when they were actually made for my survival? Have I traded my savannah for a trail of spectators who feed me with no effort.

Truth be told, I think we have all left our native habitats for safer manufactured versions. We are okay with simulations of the lives we are made for because you can press “stop” at any time and get off the ride when it gets hard. Also, foam stones are much softer than real ones. And stones get thrown from time to time.

My generation lives our lives in square images and brief captions. We craft our words for masses instead of neighbors. Platform is everything and no matter who you are…you are suppossed to have one.

We don’t pass down stories of fighting evil and leave legacies of societal transformation. No, passing down houses and trust funds is a much safer route to go.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m all for stewarding finances. Responsibility is a good thing...unless it’s something we hide behind to avoid obedience. But that isn’t responsibilty at all. Just good old-fashioned fear with a new name.

Many of us are painting stripes on ourselves because we are obsessed with standing out and having a unique pattern to our lives. Who wants to be a cow when you can be a zebra? Well, until the world is full of zebras and a cow suddenly becomes a fascinating creature that can work and produce milk to feed a whole family.

Are we leaving our God created habitats for safety, predictability and notoriety?

Is the ground beneath my feet the habitat God made for me or is it a man-made version of one?

I’ve been talking to my friends a lot about this lately. This past year I have realized there are some desires in me to paint stripes to draw a crowd. “Hustle” and “Do your dream"!” messages drowned out the message of “Obey” and “Not my will but Yours be done”.

I don’t want to go where the spectators are who will just feed me and tell me how lovely I am.

The wild is calling my name again and I’m about to go.

If there are people there, they will be the wild ones too. Who know somewhere in their souls that magic is found up in the mountains and a beautiful mystery still lingers in the sacred shade of ancient oaks.

Maybe there isn’t an audience for ‘wild’ but thats okay. I know of One who will see me and that’s enough.

Liz GriffinComment