Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Eye of the Leopard and the Roar of the Lion

This stunning picture of an African leopard is not from National Geographic or any other slick nature magazine. It is a picture taken by our friend Carol Williams. Carol, her husband Kyle, and Rachelle and I recently returned from an African safari. Our goal was to photograph 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.


Bob Cleveland said...

Exceptional photographs; exceptional observations.

I fear that too many in our churches grossly underestimate the power, presence, and influence of the devil. And the Holy Spirit, for that matter.

Victorious said...

Excellent post, Wade.

I also think sometimes, like you did, we test how close we can get to the enemy and remain unscathed and reason we have time to turn around and run back to safety.

Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. And sometimes we end up safe but scarred.

Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post!

We have to watch out for mountain lions and bears every time we step out of our front door.

We use the biblical metaphor of Satan as a roaring lion often around here.

Especially since we also have to deal with gangs and drug predators.

We are also realizing predators can come wrapped in "religious" packaging.

Keeps us on our toes, but we do bear some metaphoric fang marks!


Christiane said...

in Eastern Christianity, there is a saying that Christ-like humility gives protection for a person from the control of satan;

which makes sense when you think that the opposite of humility, 'pride', is considered to be the 'mother of all sins'.

I expect there may be more truth in this than people realize.

Victorious said...

I keep looking at the picture of the leopard. It's really a beautiful animal, isn't it? I can see why you would want to get a close up picture of it, Wade.

Christiane said...

so beautiful to see a glorious animal like that free in its natural environment, and not caged or worse, 'preserved' in someone's trophy room...

for all the danger from these great predators, they do still evoke our sense of awe as creatures of God

Gordon said...


This was absolutely stupid behavior on your part. The animals are there to be observed and not to be challenged. The cat obviously looks amused by your bravado but does not respond with anything more than a smile warning you not to intrude into its space. The head is held high, the tail is limp and the belly is well filled.... animal body language indicating absence of aggression. But if there had been kittens around, you would have been KFC. Please, listen to your wife and no more Tarzan acts on vacation !

Janet said...

Please listen to your wife in the future.

Anonymous said...

But I get it

Ramesh said...

Let us count the times when Wade did not listen to Rachelle ...

1. Current story (kind of)

2. Flight over Germany ... Air Marshalls

3. Mexico driving/renting vehicles

4. Making a left turn where a BIG sign said No Left Turn

I am sure there are others. Wade provides these and many other examples in his messages.

How about Wade wished Rachelle was with him ...

1. Driving over the grassy median from valley forge on the turn pike in philly to get to the airport in a hurry

2. Following a team in to a stadium under police escort under false pretenses

Maybe over time I can dig up some more. I am guessing without Rachelle, Wade would be in a lot of more trouble.


Ramesh said...

Correction: Flight over Germany .. Wade did listen to Rachelle and got saved.

Beth Duncan said...

Love how you see God / Biblical concepts in nature!

I live out in the desert, go hiking in the mountains a lot. Pumas live in the mountains. I've seen a few of them from VERY far away; I wouldn't mind if I saw one from a little closer, but not as close as you got to that cat!

Beth Duncan said...

Did you know that the Puma is considered the biggest of the small cats? It's because the Puma purrs while inhaling and exhaling, and cannot roar. Big cats (like the leopard that had his eye on you!) roar and can only purr while exhaling. Difference in something called the hyoid bone.

Anonymous said...

You know wade maybe it isn't the prowling side of our adversary. We are never told to go full frontal attack on Satan. We are told to stand firm in Christ's strength with his armor not swept away by Satan's advances. We have defensive orders not offensive where Satan is concerned. He does have raw power.

Anonymous said...

Wade, I am happy that you returned from East Africa, alive. In addition to the ramifications for you, your family and the church you serve, did you even think that if ANYTHING had gone wrong your guide, probably the primary wage earner for an extended family, would have been fired for allowing someone who refuses to follow rules to endanger his own life?

So, for your guide's sake, your family's sake and your church's sake, welcome home. By the way, had you gone, instead, to West Africa, would people have avoided you for 21 days?

Gerry Milligan

Anonymous said...

Amen to Gordon!! "...stupid behavior...!" But a good sermon illustration too... New believers (as well as older ones) are more apt to get duped by the devil until they begin to mature. You were "new to East Africa" and more apt to do something like that. Those that have matured there, not so much! :-) Stay safe, Wade!

Rex Ray said...

My twin brother and I had never shot anything bigger than a jackrabbit, but here we were in Alaska and 12 feet in front of us was a 350# grizzle standing tall. He was not happy as we had shot him three times with a 308. Now my brother was backing me up with an empty 308 and an empty pistol. We were down to one army rifle; a 30-06. I blasted him but it seemed like he got spit on. I jerked the bolt back but it came out over my shoulder. (My mistake.) I couldn’t get the bolt back in as I was hypnotized by his snarl and angry face. Something told me we were dead if the bolt wasn’t in. Taking my eyes off him was the longest moment of my life. When I look up, he was gone. A short time later we found him dead. My wife of five weeks was in a tree stand and had yelled we were going to step on him as the brush was so thick. She thought she was going to be a young widow.

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray,


Rex Ray said...

Yes. It shows my wife, me, and the bear. The grass is about two foot tall and he looks like a teddy bear. Laminated on the back is the same picture with his head enlarged about ten times. At one time, that’s what he looked like to me. :)

Anonymous said...

So, any naturalist tell me which roared here last night, bear or mountain lion?

Sounded first like a human choking, then something let out an almighty roar. Sounded almost like either an angry grizzly (we only have black bear) or lions in the zoo a hundred miles away. Neighbor dogs were silent at first, then about went crazy.


Anonymous said...

Linda, that could be Bigfoot for sure.

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray, you and Wade are two "WILD AND CRAZY GUYS"!! I HAVE been kissed by a giraffe and threw sticks at a rhino in the game reserve in Zimbabwe but never got into any situations like you guys!

Linda, my wife would swear that you described me snoring at night!!

Rex Ray said...


Your funny!

Anonymous said...

Neighbor has spotted the mountain lion three times in the last week around the place.

Looks like it was the big kitty on roof.


Anonymous said...

This is a great post.

Great photo!

Great story. I am afraid that you and I should never go on vacation together. Our wives would end up as widows due to our stupidity.

I have hiked on King's mountain. Interesting family connection.

And great theological point.

I will carry this with me today.