Caged Christians

(take from the book, Wild Goose Chase – Mark Batterson)

Situated five hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos chain is one of the most primitive places on the planet.  While many of the islands in the forty-nine-island archipelago are inhabited, most of them are absolutely undomesticated.  When I was there, I felt as if I were as far from civilization as I could get.  It was Edenic.

Somehow I felt a new affinity with Adam in the Galapagos environment.  It helped me imagine what life must have been like before the Fall.  Scripture tells us that one of the first jobs God gave Adam was naming the animals.  And we read right past it.  But it must have taken years of research and exploration to complete the project.  I don’t think God paraded the animals past Adam in a single-file line; I’m guessing God let Adam discover them in their natural habitats.  Imagine how thrilling is must have been for Adam to catch his first glimpse of wildebeests stampeding, mountain goats climbing, or rhinos charging.

That’s how I felt when I was in the Galapagos.  And it was there that I discovered the difference between seeing a caged animal at a local zoo and getting within an arm’s length of a mammouth marine iguana or walking a beach with hundreds of barking sea lions or floating above manta rays as they glide along the ocean floor.  It’s one thing to see a caged bird.  It’s an altogether different experience to see a pelican that looks like a prehistoric pterodactyl circling fifty feet above your boat, dive-bombing full speed into the ocean, and coming up with breakfast in its oversize beak.

Few things compare to the thrill of seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat.  There is something so inspiring about a wild animal doing what it was created to do.  Uncivilized.  Untamed.  Uncaged.

So a few weeks after returning from the Galapagos, our family spent an afternoon at the National Zoo near our home in Washington DC.  It’s a fantastic zoo.  But it just wasn’t the same after the Galapagos.  I’m ruined for zoos.  It’s not the same seeing a caged animal.  It’s too safe.  It’s too lame.  It’s too predictable.

At one point we were walking through the ape house, and I had this thought as I looked through the protective Plexiglas window at a four-hundred-pound caged gorilla: I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals.

I love the church.  I bleed the church.  And I’m not saying that the way the church cages people is intentional.  In fact, it may be well intentioned.  But too often we take people out of their natural habitat and try to tame them in the name of Christ.  We try to remove the risk.  We try to remove the danger.  We try to remove the struggle.  And what we end up with is a caged Christian.

Deep down inside, all of us long for more.  Sure, the tamed part of us grows accustomed to the safety of the cage.  but the untamed part longs for some danger, some challenge, some adventure.  And at some point in our spiritual journey, the safety and predictability of the cage no longer satisfies.  We have a primal longing to be uncaged.  And the cage opens when we recognize that Jesus didn’t die on the cross to keepp us safe.  Jesus died to make us dangerous.

Do you ever feel caged?

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Categories: Books, Readings

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