In 1987, Gary Richmond wrote a book titled, A View From The Zoo. As a zookeeper, he shared his experiences at the famed Los Angeles Zoo; as a believer, he recognized clear parallels between the instincts of God’s animals and the governance of mankind. Here are three of his stories.
Richmond recounts his first witness to the birth of a giraffe. ‘When the baby’s head became visible, I asked Jack, the animal expert, “When will the mother lie down?” “She won’t,” he replied. “But the baby will drop ten feet to the hard ground,” I countered. We sat in silence until the calf hurled forth, falling ten feet and landing on his back. Within seconds, he rolled to an upright position, legs tucked underneath.
After a quick look, the mother positioned herself directly over the baby. She swung her pendulous leg outward and kicked him. He sprawled head over heels. “Why did she do that?” I asked. “She wants it to get up, and if it doesn’t she’ll do it again,” Jack replied. Sure enough, the violent process was repeated again and again. The struggle to rise was momentous, and as the baby tired of trying, the mother yielded another hearty kick.
Finally, the baby stood: wobbly, for sure, but upright at last. I watched in disbelief as the mother kicked it off its feet yet again. Jack offered, “She wants it to remember how it got up.”
In the wild, a baby giraffe is vulnerable to predators. He would find safety within the herd, but he must be able to respond and move quickly.’ Richmond reminds us of James’ admonishment, Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3
Richmond recalls the day he was handed two keys, granting him access to all of the animal cages. He felt the weight of the responsibility. His boss admonished him, “Consistency is your best safeguard. Develop a good habit and don’t vary your routine.”
For months, Richmond did just that. And then one day, he varied his routine with the most feared animal at the zoo. Ivan was a polar bear who hated people. Over 900 pounds, he had already killed two prospective mates.
One morning I raised the 500 pound solid steel door, allowing him into the open. The minute he passed under it, I realized I had left the door between us wide open. Any minute, he might walk down the hall and around the corner to where I was. I lifted the steel door again and, to my relief, saw that Ivan had begun his morning routine. Timing his ritual, I had seventeen seconds to run down the hallway and shut the door. I staked my escape on his consistency. At the appropriate moment, I ran, turned, and lunged for the door handle. When I turned, Ivan was eight feet away, staring at me. As the door clanged shut, my knees buckled and I fell to the floor.
Richmond reminds us that consistent living produces its own protection. Seek it. Cherish it. Desire it. Hebrews 5:14: But solid food is for the mature who, because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Lastly, the zoo purchased a female black rhino. ‘After experiencing the trauma of a ship’s cargo hold and the chaos of a LA freeway, she had become extremely fearful and anxious. She arrived at the zoo in a crate so large that it had to be moved with a crane. She began ramming the door of her crate until it splintered. Seventeen feet in the air, she blasted it off its hinges. The crate was quickly lowered until, at four feet, trembling with fright, she jumped to the ground. She stood, trembling with fear, then charged a large boulder and fell to her knees. She repeated this until the most amazing thing happened. Her whole body glistened red in the morning sun. She was perspiring great drops of blood from every pore of her body. The vet explained, “She has reached a maximum of stress, bursting capillaries all over her body. She is in great danger.” You know Richmond’s parallel: And being in agony Jesus prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. Luke 22:44.
Richmond concluded, “Lord, I never realized that You knew about stress in this way. How trapped you must have felt. How alone. You really do understand how I feel.”
I love Richmond’s observations; I savor his parallels; I gnaw on his analogies.
I draw some conclusions…
That all of God’s creations and purposes were intended to interface;
That there are no loose threads or happenstance events in history;
That God’s purposes crisscross, transverse, and zigzag until rich, deep truths emerge from their thick tapestries.
The view is amazing from here!