February 27, 2006

“Here, Kitty, Kitty!â€?
By Pastor George Van Alstine

“Here, kitty kittyâ€?—that was the front page headline in the Pasadena Star-News this morning over an article that described a feline visitor to Altadena yesterday. A young male mountain lion had wandered from the foothills into a residential area near the intersection of Fair Oaks Avenue and Altadena Drive. A man woke up, looked out the front window and saw the lion laying among his yucca plants with his gaze “fixed on the two fake deer in the yard across the street.â€? Clever cat!

Five helicopters, several ground news crews, Sheriff deputies and Department of Fish and Game Wardens were joined by many curious neighbors who were trying to be in on the party. Nearby Edison Elementary School was locked down for four hours.

The Star-News headline reflected the general attitude toward the risk posed by the lion’s presence. Most people interviewed by the press were more concerned about the animal’s safety than their own. They saw the lion’s visit as a great story to tell relatives back east.

There is an old saying quoted twice in the Book of Proverbs as a way of exposing the excuses of a lazy person:
“The lazy person says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!’ â€? (Proverbs 22:13, cf. 26:13)
The lion, though imaginary, is scarey enough to justify pulling up the covers and staying in bed. What an excuse! I mean, what are the chances of a lion being in the streets of the city?

Well, it happened right here in Altadena. And instead of giving people a reason to stay in bed, it got them out of bed and as close to the lion as possible.

So the question is, how dangerous is a lion in the streets? Or, more generally, what should we be afraid of?

The answer is, everything and nothing! It can be argued that there is danger everywhere, so that no move we make is safe. It doesn’t take a lion; a microscopic flu virus can do us in. We can be the safest driver imaginable, and a drunk driver can run a red light and end our life. And beyond these physical dangers, far more serious spiritual threats lurk invisibly all around us, the destructive forces Paul refers to asâ€?cosmic powers of darkness, spiritual forces of evilâ€? (Ephesians 6:12). There’s no safe place we can retreat to from enemies such as these. There is reason to be afraid of everything.

On the other hand, there is Reason (with a capital R) for believers to be afraid of nothing. God’s constant presence dispels each and every fear. There is no lion, or flu virus, or cosmic power of evil that dares to challenge him. If he is holding our hand, we can walk securely through a dark alley—even through “the valley of the shadow of deathâ€? (Psalm 23:4).

As for lions, Isaiah’s prophecy envisions the day when “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the oxâ€? (Isaiah 66:25). Maybe some day we’ll witness a little lamb quoting the Star-News to our Altadena lion (if he makes it to heaven): “Here, kitty kitty!â€?