Lessons from a Zookeeper

My daughter and I rounded the corner into the shade. It was a perfect day for the zoo… a beautiful 72 degrees in August, with a gorgeous breeze that was almost a bit chilly. We had already seen camels, albino kangaroos, flamingos, and we were headed to the giraffes. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a creature with lots of hair walking around the cages of monkeys, parakeets, and lemurs. An older lady with a stretchy band of keys on her wrist was picking up fallen tree limbs and hosing off the cages from the outside. I noticed that she wasn’t smiling. The parakeet was making loud noises and the monkeys were swinging like acrobats around their cage. The giraffes were stretching their necks to see what all the raucous was about. Eden was enthralled with the monkeys, their beards and their chatter. I was admiring their upper arm strength, wondering how many reps I would have to do to be able to swing around like that.


I noticed that the zookeeper wasn’t smiling. How odd, I thought. She had the opportunity to be just feet away from some of the most amazing animals, and it didn’t appear that she even noticed them. Perhaps she was having a bad day, or had a lot on her mind. But I began thinking of what amazing privileges I take advantage of in my own life. That I have a job and can significantly contribute to my family’s needs while staying at home with my daughter this summer? That I’m surrounded by Cheerios and feel like a human Hoover and forget that I have a precious toddler at home that God has given me to take care of? That I get wrapped up in the busyness of life and fail to take notice of the Presence of Jesus? How often do I read His Word out of duty, instead of relishing His love for me? I wonder how often I walk through this life, ungrateful for my one-and-only job description on this earth: to love and know Jesus more. How have I gotten over this privilege??


A crowd assembled, watching the hyperactive animals respond to the water and the up-close-and-personal human. The lady didn’t speak to the animals. She didn’t make eye contact with them as she targeted the poop on the cage floor and aimed her hose at it. How often am I, too, focused on the crap in my own life… the failures, the opportunities missed, the inconvenient interruptions, the sticky countertops…that I forget to notice the people around me that I love? Matt Chandler speaks of husbands and wives who bring their phones to bed at night, frustrated with life, creeping on old classmates’ present-day careers and scrolling through social media, seemingly without thought to their beloved lying in bed next to them. This is so often me.


The lady filled up the water basin and added new food, but I noticed that the monkeys were still picking at the old banana peels that she was trying to hose away. How ridiculous, I thought to myself. Do they not see the amazing treasure trove of fresh fruit right over there? How silly to desire the leftover peels. But how often am I content with the leftovers? How often do I scrounge around for food that is half-eaten, picked at, and non-sustaining? Do I really think this is the best there is? I settle for what Billy Graham says about God, what that devotional tells me God is like, what that podcast tells me the Bible says. But do I feast on the riches of God’s Word myself? Or do I simply roam around the cages of the men and women of God who have sat at Jesus’ feet for years, and pick up bits and pieces of what they’ve learned and take what they say as truth? Hearing from pastors and wise leaders is an important privilege, but it should never take the place of seeking God for myself. When I do this, I am missing out on so much. I am trading communion with Christ for allowing someone else to attend the feast and tell me what it tastes like. I wonder how often I am content with the crumbs instead of dining on steak at the Master’s table.


Just as we decided to go on our way, I heard the zookeeper say something to the monkey. I expected something like: Hello there, handsome! Nice moves! This sure is a pretty day for swinging! But instead, I heard, “Are you going to help me?” Ouch. Does Jesus feel this way? How many times have been blinded to His beauty because I am only there to ask Him for help? How often am I unable to see the miracle of God-in-flesh, the God Who gave up all of His heavenly glory, and became the most vulnerable of all humans- a baby. Instead of bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh, I come empty-handed, expecting to leave with my arms full.


As I pushed the stroller towards the zebras, I prayed that I would gain a renewed sense of my privilege as a daughter of Christ. I asked the Lord to make me more aware of His Presence, and to never let it get stale. I prayed to be like the Psalmist who begged to be a doorkeeper in God’s house than to be separated from Him (Psalm 84:10.)  His majesty and glory is paralleled to none.


Jesus, may I never get over it!


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