In my mind, I’m back in Kenya. This time it is night. We are no longer on mission. It is the end of the trip, and we are on safari. This place was like nothing I have ever seen. Very eco-friendly. Amazing! The detached huts were spaced well apart, and the one, large dining hut was a decent walk away. That was it. No gates. No fences. No trace of humanness. Just wild, wide open space and a small, gravel path that connected the huts together. Below us was a river that hippos splash in all day. At any time, you can hear them grunt and moan and show off.
Everyday, we set of on safari with a guide. Most were Maasai warriors – the real deal. Friendly. Strong. Brave. Confident. We saw so many amazing animals up close and very personal – it took my breath away. However, more surreal than that was nighttime. There were clearly stated rules we had to follow. This is what we were told, Under no circumstances, ever, do you come out of your hut at night alone. There are predators that come to this camp, and you must not venture outside your hut. If you need something, use this small light. Shine it in the night, and a Masai watchman will come running to help you. When leaving the dining lodge, you must have an escort because it will be dark. You must NOT walk to your hut alone in the dark. The reiterated their point several times. Got it.
Were the hosts doing this to spoil our fun? Absotluely not. They were doing it to keep us safe. After dinner one night, a small group of us huddled together to wait for a Maasai escort to go to our huts for the night. It seemed out of nowhere, a tall, slender Maasai in a bright red kanga (a one-piece garment), holding a walking stick taller than him, appeared from the darkness. My friend walked with him down the path, chatting as they went, when suddenly he stopped moving and shushed her. He said, Wait. Lion. He cocked his ear toward the black of night and listened. After a few seconds (which seemed like an eternity to my friend, frozen in fear) he softly spoke, Two-hundreds yards. We’re okay. My friend said she was about to crawl up under his kanga in fear as they continued trekking to her hut.
When it was my family’s turn, we wanted to all climb on the Maasai’s shoulders! The danger was so real you could sense it, like smelling rain before it begins to fall. As we walked down the narrow gravel path to our hut, the Maasai shone his flashlight into the bushes inches from our feet. I didn’t even want to know what he was looking out for. I asked our Maasai, Do you ever get scared? This huge warrior, donning a war-colored kanga and armed with only a spear, looked at me with his deep, dark eyes and stated firmly, No – as if I had just asked a stupid question. Well, okay then, I thought to myself. I didn’t bring it up again. Later I found out that this Maasai has killed, not one, but six lions with his bare hands! Oh…my…word! Another Maasai with our team once jumped into a hippo-infested, crocodile-plagued river to save five drowning tourists. He jumped in and saved them all, all by himself. Wow. These men are modern-day superheroes!
As we slept that night in our hut, with the steel door locked and the canvas windows zipped up, the nighttime activity began. Nighttime on the Mara is very active. Hunting is huge at this time. The day before we arrived, a jaguar had been seen walking through the camp. Whoa. They didn’t have to tell me twice to stay in our hut. The beds lined the perimter of the hut, with our heads against the dried mud wall. The steel door made me feel safe, but the entire backside of the hut was canvas (like a tent). My husband jokingly said, It’s just a wrapper (as in a candy bar and we’re the treat). Ha ha, Honey. The lights were shut off (literally, they cut power to the rooms at 11pm). We could not see the hand in front of our face. But, that was kind of okay with me because that meant we couldn’t see the enormous bugs hanging on the mosquito nets that draped over our beds.
Then it began. Thump. Bump. Snort. Groan. Moan. Grunt. Kick. Wham! up against the walls our heads were resting against. The animals came. In large number. They were literally right outside, and only a mud wall stood between us and them. My heart beat so hard I knew for sure every predator within miles could hear it. Hippos, zebra, wildebeests, Thompson gazelles, you name it, was there. Oh, and at least one lion that the Maasai heard. All night, the thumping and bumping up against our mud wall continued. My family and I laid there, in the stark blackness, and whispered, Did you hear that? Did you feel that? The owners weren’t kidding when they said the danger is real.
Obviously, we survived. In fact, we had the best time of our entire lives!! Why? How? Every moment we were there, we were in some kind of danger. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves because we obeyed the rules. We stayed on the marked paths. We didn’t go out after dark. We enlisted the Maasai to help us when needed. When near the wild animals, we didn’t call to them or disturb them. We kept all limbs inside the open-air vehicles at all times. We sat very, very quietly when animals passed by our Landrover. In addition to medicine and protective clothing, we followed bug repellent guidelines so as to avoid contracting malaria. These are examples of rules that are meant to keep us safe, not spoil our fun, while in the wild.
Living according to God’s Word is the same. He has given us the Bible as a rulebook, of sorts, to follow. Is this to spoil our quality of life? No, in fact, it is to enhance it. When we live with Christ in our heart, we desire to please God. It’s a choice we make. Jesus said Himself, The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). In keeping God’s commandments in both the Old and New Testaments, we have freedom to really, truly, deeply live – not merely survive.
2 Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Leviticus 25:18 (God speaking), Follow my decress and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land.
Proverbs 3:5-6 promises, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.
Psalm 119:33-35, Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
John 14:15 (Jesus speaking), If you love me, you will obey what I command.
Instead of resenting and testing the boundaries God has set for our lives as believers, let’s embrace them! He has our best interest at heart and is working for our eternal good – all the time. Dwell in God’s Word. Absorb it. Let it become who you are. We will continue to sin, sinful people that we are. But, we can minimize the difficulties we create for ourselves when living according to the standard God has set in the Bible. In doing so, we are free to fully enjoy the life in Christ has to offer such as trust, joy, peace, and contentment. Psalm 91:1-2 says it best, He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’
The Maasai have their knowledge, strength, courage, walking sticks, and handmade spears to keep them safe. All are very impressive. Christians have the Word of God which is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12) - the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). In it, He’s given us everything we need to make wise choices. Choose wisely today.
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