I’ll never claim to be a photographer, but I’ve always liked to take pictures. My life as a pseudo-photographer began when my parents gave me a Kodak “Instamatic” camera (without film) and encouraged me to take thousands of pictures of the American West. I still remember film and flash cubes. I’ve watched Polaroid pictures “develop” before my eyes. But now, I’ve gone digital. My Nikon D90 is really more than I need. My Nikon D90 has “bells and whistles” I’ll never use. But even knowing that, I bought a new lens for my camera this week and, right after that, I went to the zoo.
The zoo is a great place to take pictures! The monkeys just hang in the trees and the rhinos are almost motionless. I saw a blue lobster, a polar bear, several gorillas, and a few lions. The tigers slept. A baboon yawned. The camel said, “Cheese!” And the kids – thousands of kids – were the only things that roamed freely. The animals were behind walls and fences. Majestic beasts that roam freely in other parts of the world didn’t seem to care that they were confined. I guess, over time, they got used to it. Perhaps, they got used to living that way in the same way that people get used to it – especially after they’ve been hurt.
I’ve never liked being hurt. I’ve been wounded by nasty words, and I’ve been physically hurt by people who were supposed to love me. I’ve been verbally attacked and humiliated in front of friends. I’ve been betrayed. I’ve been viciously stabbed in the back by other Christians. I was, once, dragged into the middle of an ugly divorce by a dysfunctional woman who thought she loved me. I was clubbed with a purse, and when I asked the woman who clubbed me (at a psychiatric hospital) why she did it – she responded, “Because I know pastors forgive people.”
We all respond to being hurt in different ways. Some of us fight back with ugly words. Some of us get into blow-for-blow physical fights. Some people learn to simply accept abuse and live with it – believing they “deserve” it. Still other folks – folks like me – withdraw. We put up fences and learn to live behind walls. We hide our deepest thoughts and feelings from the rest of the world, so that we can feel “safe.” We, sometimes, get so used to living behind walls and fences that we forget that we can live in a different way. And that confuses people. People can find it hard to get “close” to us. People who love us can feel “distant.” Quite frankly, people who live behind emotional walls and fences don’t like the “distance” either. I suspect that animals in a zoo long for something more “natural.” But, once they’ve lived a large part of their lives behind walls and fences, they redefine what “natural” means to them. People do that, too. When we learn to respond to the “hurts” in our lives by building walls and fences, we begin to lose touch with what God created us to be. And the saddest part about it is that, when we do that, we lose sight of the fact that our lives can be lived in a very different and much more satisfying way.
So, how do you respond when others hurt you? Do you fight back with ugly words? Have you ever gotten into a blow-for-blow physical fight? Are you a person who has learned to simply accept abuse and live with it – maybe even believing that you “deserve” it? Are you a person who builds walls and fences in life – and who, then, hides behind them to feel “safe”?
The picture at the top of this post is one of the photos I took this week. The monkey is well-fed and lives at the zoo. It seems to be content. It’s learned to live behind a wall and fence, and it’s learned to look cute when people take a picture. But, the monkey would probably be happier in a lush, green forest. It’s learned to be “content” at the zoo because it has lost sight of the fact that life can be lived in a different way. Has that happened to you? Are you living behind self-created walls and fences? Do you really want to live that way? Or, would you be much happier if some of those walls and fences could be taken away?