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Facing the Lions

John is an actor, academic, entrepreneur, financial pundit, and writer interested in the search for truth and meaning in the world.


Once upon a time, there were three Masai boys whose time had come for them to leave home and endure the test of manhood. The eldest of the boys was named Shaquille, the second Danka, and the youngest Kunta. Now Shaquille was a brutish, muscular boy, and spent most of his time fighting and being disobedient to his parents. He was never so happy as when he was dominating others or boasting of his greatness. Neglecting his chores and studies, he would go on for hours about why he would someday be the village chief.

His parents often found fault with him for this, and would shake their heads sadly and say, “Shaquille! Some day you will be sorry you did not obey us. These are the learning years, and you should use them wisely.” But no words of advice or warning could cure Shaquille of his bad habits.

Danka was quite a nice boy, but he was timid and small for his age. He did his chores without being told and looked forward to playing with his friends. When the village boys came together to play soccer, he would be the first to arrive, with great excitement. But as soon as the game became physical and the boys jostled back and forth for possession of the ball, or if he did not get the ball on his first few attempts, he would give up. His parents often scolded him for not trying harder, and told him that someday he would suffer for being so fearful. They frequently reminded him that a warrior is known not by his stature, but by his courage.

Kunta was an average-sized boy, neither skinny nor muscular. He was kind to others and always sought knowledge from the village elders. For that reason, many of the village elders taught him how to hunt, fish, and make weapons. He was much cleverer than Shaquille and Danka, and his parents’ hearts swelled with pride when they heard the village chief say to others that someday the little fellow would be a village chief or elder.

Now, it was tradition in this village for each boy, from the eldest to the youngest, to go to the center of a nearby forest and kill the lions that frequently preyed upon the village’s cattle. A boy would be given one day to kill a lion and return to the village. Then on the next day another boy would have his chance. The boy who killed a lion would be granted the rights of manhood. If fear of the lions overtook a boy, he would be called a coward and forced to forfeit his inheritance.

As was the custom on the night before leaving home, the tribal chief gathered the three boys together and gave them instructions for the dangerous journey. Leaning forward on his staff with his tall skinny body, beaming an encouraging smile across his leathery face, the chief said, “Whatever you do, stay on the straight and narrow path at all times. From the path, you will be able to see the lions before they can attack you. If necessary, use the trees as places of refuge, for everyone knows that those lions don’t climb trees well. Do not take shortcuts through the tall grass because dangerous beasts hide in the shadows. And, do not fear the lions’ roar, for you are more than able to defeat them. Resist the lions and they will flee from you. Always have your spear ready to thrust into the lion before he can bite you. Please remember these words because your strength, cleverness, speed, or lack thereof will not save you. Only through courage and obedience will you defeat the lions and return home in triumph.”

After giving his instructions, the chief told Shaquille to get a good night’s sleep because tomorrow he would need all his strength to survive the test.

The next morning, the chief gathered the entire village to pray and commit the boys to God. Then the eldest boy went forth to claim his destiny. Shaquille stayed on the dirt path until he was out of sight of the village. Then he sighed, saying to himself, “The forest is such a long walk away. I will run through the tall grass and arrive in the forest much quicker. After all, what does that stupid old chief know? Doesn’t he know that I am the fastest, smartest, and toughest boy in the village?” No sooner had the boy left the path when a lion jumped from the shadows and killed him. In the evening, when Shaquille did not return, the village mourned him and prepared to send out the second boy early the next day.

In the morning, Danka began his journey down the path that led to the center of the forest. He was careful to stay on the path and closely observe his surroundings. As he walked toward to the forest, he heard a lion roaring in the distance. His moment of testing was near. He remembered the many scary stories the old men told him about lions eating little boys. And, of course, the fact that Shaquille didn’t return was foremost on his mind. Fear fell upon him. As he reached the top of the hill, he saw the roaring lion in the valley below and realized to his surprise the lion could also see him. The lion, who was enjoying yesterday’s kill, saw the boy. He leaped to his feet and crept toward Danka. Danka’s heart melted with terror. He raced to a nearby tree and scrambled up as fast as he could, dropping his spear in the process. The lion now had no reason to fear the boy, so he paced around the tree and began to taunt him.

“Come down from the tree,” the lion purred, “and I will let you go.”

But Danka did not move. He realized the crafty lion had no plans to let him go. He knew as soon as he left the tree, the lion would eat him, just like he did Shaquille. After pleading with the boy to come down from the tree with no result, the lion grew angry.

“Come down,” he roared, “or I will climb the tree and eat you.”

Now this he said mocking the boy because everyone knows fat-overweight, male lions don’t climb trees. So the situation turned into a standoff with the lion angrily circling the tree and tormenting the boy for several hours. In the tree, the boy gave into despair, chose to abandon his quest, and remained there until the lion left. That day he began dying daily, even though he lived another fifty years. He became such an object of ridicule and shame for his family that he was eventually forced to leave the village, never to return. What an unnecessary tragedy! The lion had not physically touched Danka but merely threatened his safety. Instead of believing the wise old chief, the boy foolishly chose to believe [fear] his enemy and suffered for his disobedience. His disobedience destined him to abide among the cowards that die many times before their deaths rather than the valiant who never taste of death but once (Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 2).

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On the third day, the youngest boy, Kunta, started on his journey to the forest. He walked down the same straight and narrow dirt path as the other two boys. During his walk, he repeated aloud everything the old chief had told him about defeating the lions.

“A spear will save your life and take the lion’s life,” he said, grasping his spear tightly in his right hand. “Therefore, never put down your spear or lose it, for it is your very life.”

While he walked, he passed the second boy trudging back to the village, head down, shoulders slumped. Kunta tried to comfort Danka, but he would not talk or stop walking towards home. So Kunta continued to his destiny. After walking another mile, he saw what was left of the first boy on the left side of the road near the tall grasses. He stopped, wondering what exactly happened to his friend. Upon looking at Shaquille’s and his attacker’s footprints, he discovered that Shaquille had disobeyed the chief’s instructions and left the path. Understanding his friend’s fate, he returned to the path.

He walked for many more hours in the blistering sun until the path with tall grasses on both sides gave way to the forest ruled by lions. As he entered the forest, Kunta heard a loud lion roar from the shadows in front of him. It thundered throughout the forest. He, like the other boys, became afraid when he heard the roar. However, he did not run away but followed the sound until a massive lion stood in front of him. Full-grown, well over five hundred pounds, the beast possessed a regal mane, denoting his authority. Upon seeing the boy, the lion king roared and roared to scare the boy. Kunta, however, forced himself to stay calm and firmly gripped his spear. When the lion saw the boy would resist him and not run for safety, he became angry. He paced and roared as if preparing to charge the boy.

“I’ll eat you, just like I did all the others who came into my forest,” he said menacingly.

Kunta refused to allow the bully lion to move him. Instead, the boy told the lion his future.

“Mr. Lion, you have eaten your last little boy,” he said boldly, raising his spear and staring into the lion’s eyes. “I will kill you today with my spear and wear you as a coat.”

As he resisted the lion, he soon discovered an amazing fact. The lion was scared of him. The lions, you see, had long learned to fear men who knew how to use a spear. They knew that a man with a spear could easily kill them. So lions would flee from armed men, but attack and devour unarmed men. The lion, realizing the boy would resist him and also blocked his path of escape, charged at Kunta. However, Kunta remembered the chief’s instruction and immediately pointed his spear toward the charging lion and braced it with his foot. As the open-mouthed lion lunged, the spear pierced through his stomach. The lion dropped to the ground, dead.

Kunta could return home in triumph. He had become a man.

The next day the tribal chief invited Kunta to his home.

“You see it is as I told you,” the chief said. “The way to have success in life is to possess courageous obedience in the face of adversity.”

Fortunately, Kunta had learned that lesson—and found a courage he didn’t know he possessed. Kunta grew up to be a successful hunter, a strong leader, and eventually the chief of the tribe. And he never forgot the lesson he learned in the forest that day when facing the lion.

So when facing the lion of temptation—Satan—remember that obedience to God's Word is the key to defeating him.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 John Remington Pierce

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