We were in Fort Collins last week for Cru's National Staff conference that we have every two years. It's a huge gathering of close to 5,000 staff from around the country that all work under the umbrella of Cru's ministries. We've been going there every two years since 1999. We love Fort Collins-it's actually been named to have the friendliest drivers, claims more than 300 days of sunshine a year, and is one of the top 10 cities in the United States to live. One night we were driving after having dinner out when all of sudden we saw the lights of a police car in our rear view mirror. I had no idea why we were being pulled over (honest) and it was a first for Jon (at least in this town-we won't speak of his earlier years of driving).
We were in a rental car so we fumbled around for the rental agreement. The police officer slowly approached the driver side window and asked if we knew why he pulled us over. Jon said, "No sir, I sure don't". The police officer replied, "We'll, you didn't have your lights on". What a relief I thought to myself. We told him that because it was a rental car we must have hit the wrong switch and assumed that the lights were on.
We started talking more and he asked if we were with Cru's conference and we said yes. He then asked if we still lived in Oceanside. We said yes and he shared that he used to be stationed out there when he was in the Marines. Then he asked what I did for a living out in Oceanside, and sort of confused, I told him that we worked for Cru. Then he said, "Oh, I didn't know that was a full-time thing". I tried not to laugh because I still didn't know if we were getting a ticket or a warning and I said, "Yes, sir, it's a real job". He seemed satisfied with our story and gave us a nice warning. Perceptions can be funny. I guess if I wanted any kind of respect, I should have joined the Marines ;-).
Ammie and I recently traveled to South Africa where we had the privilege of going on a game drive with some of our STINTERS. This was Ammie's first time to Africa and if you've ever been on a game drive, you just never know what to expect. We heard our guide talking over the radio confirming the last known location of a pride of 7 lions as we tumbled around in our 15 seater range rover that brought us back to our first time riding Indiana Jones at Disneyland.
Ten minutes later, there they were. Seven lions (2 males, 2 females, and 3 adolescent males all lying down). We pulled up within 25 feet or so, and our guide turned the engine off, and we just sat there in awe. Then we watched as each one of them started walking around, yawning, and according to our guide, waking up to prepare for their night hunt.
Before we knew it, these lions decided to chill within 10 feet of our vehicle. Then, one of the adolescent males got too close to the alpha male's space who then charged him (right towards our range rover of course) to scare him off, which then prompted our guide to yell at the lion (because he had forgotten his rifle). Our guide then said very softly, "Now you definitely want to stay seated... or you'll single yourself out something serious". Simultaneously, the dominant female lion began to grunt to get the alpha male's attention (you know-to save her silly adolescent male from getting torn to shreds). Mr. Alpha male now thinks it's mating time. Next, the female shrugs off Mr. Alpha male and begins to tease him a bit by rolling over to play. All of this happens within roughly 30 exhilarating seconds and then my almost 40 year old mind begins to think (what the heck am I doing?!). And before I know it, I softly utter to Ammie, "uhh...this is stupid".
Now, I'm surrounded by some of the bravest men and women in the world (recent college graduates who are on mission) who have no fear. They were as peaceful as could be, but my face told otherwise. These majestic lions just cozied up to us and would set there eyes on you and just stare-let's say they won the staring contest. Eventually, after absorbing this wonderful show, our guide re-started up the vehicle. We had a fun discussion afterwards about how all I could think about at that moment was our three kids and that I hoped we'd make it out of there. Ammie, for some reason, was just happy to be outside without kids and couldn't have cared less (she's the steady one in our marriage). Now I know why C.S. Lewis used a lion to portray the character of God when he writes “He's not safe, but he's good" (referring to Aslan, the Lion, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). There's tremendous power just waiting to be unleashed.
We ended our discussion about my nervous reaction with me saying, "You guys just don't respect the lion". We all laughed and took turns retelling the story again and again as we drove back to our tents.