I sat bleary-eyed at the kitchen table. Saturday morning had arrived at last. My coffee was in a ceramic mug, and I still wore my pajamas. Sticky plates from our pancake feast were stacked on the table in front of me and I scrolled through social media. The morning at home was just what we needed after the wild few weeks of school starting back up…
I’d recently gone back to full-time teaching and our weekday pace was frantic. My growing-too-fast boy lounged on the couch with eyes glued to the television. I wished for a moment he’d chosen a different mode of relaxation, but instead of asking him to turn it off, I snuggled in beside him to finish off my coffee.
Instead of cartoons, he had chosen a documentary featuring animals of the Savannah on one of the animal and science channels. Within moments I was riveted, and my heart raced.
In the video, a small band of Cape buffalo meander along a riverbank when a contingency of lions attack. The lions grab a baby buffalo as it falls into the water. The adult buffaloes take off running. I gasped, unable to take my eyes off the chaotic scene on the television. The situation goes from bad to worse for the baby buffalo as the camera pans to the water and I spy two beady reptile eyes. In a blink, I hear a snap!
I screamed and grabbed my boy’s hand. “Oh, my goodness! Is the baby going to get torn in two?” At which point, he rolls his eyes and says, “Just watch!”
The crocodile had one of the baby’s hooves in its mouth and was pulling it into the water. The lions had the baby by the head and were pulling the other direction. Suddenly, the baby popped out of the water with all four legs still intact and was overcome by the lions. The awful scene was heart-wrenching.
By now, I’d set my coffee mug down and sat perched at the edge of my seat. All of a sudden, the most incredible thing happened; the adult cape buffaloes came back! And this time the small group was not alone. The entire herd charged toward the lions. One of them leaned down to head-butt a lion and sent it flying through the air.
I heard the baby buffalo, and my jaw dropped; It was alive! The buffaloes speared the other lions off the baby. The baby was enveloped back into the herd, and the lions scattered.
I wiped the tears from eyes, took a deep breath, and tried to settle back into the relaxed Saturday feeling. As I washed sticky pancake plates, I remembered listening to a guide in a safari park in Northern California. While we drove through the Cape Buffalo area, the guide said they had been known to attack as a herd to defend each other. They even remember previous predators and will attack if the herd is threatened again.
Herds. Villages. Friendships. Our people. In the hardest circumstances, the small group ran to get the herd because all of them were needed. The herd protected the baby in both the heat of the attack and in the aftermath. The herd knew the fight wasn’t over. The herd demonstrates the best ways to be a village.
When things get hard, let’s run for reinforcements.
When I first saw this video, I’d gone back to full-time teaching. The change was sudden, and my herd, my village, stepped in and cared for my family in innumerable ways. We received prayers and sweet messages. Others stepped in to take care of my boy and to feed our family. We had help finding our spare key when someone needed to get in, and I couldn’t make it home. I relied upon help, guidance, and answers as I stepped back into the classroom. Each minute of help offered by our village gave me life. They saw that I was surrounded by life’s demands and knew I was about to be torn in two. They brought reinforcements and saved the day.
When things get hard, let’s charge the predators. Together.
In my current season, I’m faced with balancing family demands, stepping into a new position at work, and the writing ministry to which I feel called. My herd, my village, heard the anxiety in my voice at our lunch last week. They lowered their heads and charged the predator, not with physical horns, but with prayer. The predator went flying through the air, no longer sinking his teeth of worry and anxiety into my heart.
When things get hard, let’s bring each other back into the herd. When life gets hard, I tend to retreat inward. I want to lick my wounds privately and replay conversations in my head. I compare my worst to someone else’s best. My herd, my village, somehow know and remember what anxieties have attacked me before. They know to hem me back into the herd and surround me with their collective strength.
In Luke 6, Jesus gives one of His most quoted commands. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus’s words give us guidance for building relationships within our herd. Our village. Sometimes our village saves us from lions. Other times we must be the charging herd ready to protect our own.
Our herds. Our villages. Our close friends. Our faraway friends. Our old friends. Our newest friends. Our people are necessary for our survival.
Featured image by Hill Smiley Photography
Bethany McMillon is a coffee, football, and ice cream lover from the Dallas, TX area. She adores her number-loving accountant husband and her growing too fast, obsessed with science and history boy. She daily strives to notice God’s mercy and grace in the small moments of life. Bethany loves her work as a school librarian for tiny and medium-size learners, which aligns perfectly with the joy she finds in reading and writing. Perhaps most importantly, Bethany is passionate about building deeper relationships with both Jesus and those that she loves. Her spirit is most settled after she has connected with a friend over coffee, or sweet tea on the patio, or even a side by sidewalk through a local neighborhood. She hopes to encourage women to find and hold onto that kind of feeling within busy and quick-paced lives. Bethany is a member of the Hope*Writers community and writes weekly on her website. She can be found on Instagram and on Facebook.