Africa's big nine. We succeeded beyond my wildest imagination, thanks to expert guides and the magic of Carol's superb photography skills. This particular leopard, captured on camera during our last safari day in Africa's Serengeti National Park, was sitting in a tree by a creek. We had hunted for leopards in the Serengeti most of the day, and our guide took us off the rough dirt roads and followed the creeks, knowing leopards loved to rest in the trees above ground. The thing that strikes me about this particular photograph is that the exposed fangs of this leopard, the narrow, penetrating eyes, and the look of "I'm going to kill you..." was directed at me.
I got outside the jeep and too close to this leopard, not listening to the instructions given. But, I had a reason for doing so. I wanted a close-up of this leopard.
You see, my great-grandfather (6X) on my mother's side, Zachariah Benjamin Salyer (1729-1789), had been killed on his property at King's Mountain, North Carolina in 1776 by a Puma concolor which had jumped from a tree and killed him while he was riding his horse on his property. Nine years earlier, the Battle of King's Mountain, a decisive Patriot militia victory during the Revolutionary War, had been fought on my grandfather's property. He had lived through the Revolutionary War only to be killed by a cat pouncing on him from a tree above.
I wanted this picture of a leopard in a tree. I wanted to see the leopard up close. The rules in the Serengeti are that tourists are to stay in the jeep, but my I-Pad, the only camera I had at the time, didn't have a zoom lens. So I said, "I'm getting out of the jeep to get a picture." Rachelle gave me kind of drawn out "W-a-d-e!" I responded, "I'll be careful."
I should know by now to listen to my wife when it comes to jeeps. I got out of the jeep and began walking toward the tree with the leopard in it. I could hear my wife saying, "Wade, get back here!" I thought I could move quickly, get the photo I wanted, and get back into the jeep - no foul, no harm. However, at precisely the moment of thinking I was fine, the leopard stood, turned toward me, bared his fangs, and looked ready to pounce. I heard the guide yell with what seemed to me a strain of panic - "Wade, get back in the jeep NOW!"
That leopard wanted me for lunch. My heart began racing, but I made it back to the safety of the jeep before my great-grandchildren had the opportunity to tweet about the death of their forefather in the Serengeti of Africa.
Anyway, thanks to Carol Williams and her steady hand with the camera, she captured the exact moment the leopard looked at me with the "You are mine" kind of attitude. Carol's pictures are a visual to me of what 'our adversary, the devil' looks like when he prowls the earth 'looking for whom he may devour' (I Peter 5:8).
I wonder if I think enough about my enemy and his intent to destroy me. Jesus, my friend and defender, has given me wisdom on how to live life to its fullest, avoiding the traps set by the devourer. The Bible, I guess, could be compared to the safety of a Serengeti jeep. When I don't listen to the wisdom of Jesus' words, it's to my own detriment. As John Bunyan reminds us in Pilgrim's Progress, our adversary the devil--compared in Scripture to a 'roaring lion'--is actually chained. However, when I get out of the jeep and off the path God intends for me, I'm within the adversary's reach.
Thanks to our friend, Carol Williams. She has given us a vivid visual of the importance of obeying the Word and not playing games with diablos.