In 1987, Gary Richmond wrote a book titled, A View from the Zoo. As a zookeeper, he shared his experiences at the famed Los Angeles Zoo; as a believer, he recognized clear parallels between the instincts of God’s animals and the governance of mankind. Two of his stories have stayed with me over the years.

Richmond recounts his first witness to the birth of a giraffe: “When the baby’s head became visible, I asked Jack, the animal expert, ‘When will the mother lie down?’ ‘She won’t,’ he replied. ‘But the baby will drop 10 feet to the hard ground,’ I countered. We sat in silence until the calf hurled forth, falling 10 feet and landing on his back. Within seconds, he rolled to an upright position, legs tucked underneath.

“After a quick look, the mother positioned herself directly over the baby. She swung her pendulous leg outward and kicked him. He sprawled head over heels. ‘Why did she do that?’ I asked. ‘She wants it to get up, and if it doesn’t she’ll do it again,’ Jack replied. Sure enough, the violent process was repeated again and again. The struggle to rise was momentous, and as the baby tired of trying, the mother yielded another hearty kick.

“Finally, the baby stood: wobbly, for sure, but upright at last. I watched in disbelief as the mother kicked it off its feet yet again. Jack offered, ‘She wants it to remember how it got up.”

In the wild, a baby giraffe is vulnerable to predators. He would find safety within the herd, but he must be able to respond and move quickly.

Richmond’s story reminds us of James’ admonishment, Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)

In a second story, Richmond recalls the day he was handed two keys, granting him access to all of the animal cages. He felt the weight of the responsibility. His boss admonished him, “Consistency is your best safeguard. Develop a good habit and don’t vary your routine.”

For months, Richmond did just that. And then one day, he varied his routine with the most feared animal at the zoo. Ivan was a polar bear who hated people. Over 900 pounds, he had already killed two prospective mates.

“One morning I raised the 500-pound solid-steel door, allowing him into the open. The minute he passed under it, I realized I had left the door between us wide open. Any minute, he might walk down the hall and around the corner to where I was. I lifted the steel door again and, to my relief, saw that Ivan had begun his morning routine. Timing his ritual, I had 17 seconds to run down the hallway and shut the door. I staked my escape on his consistency. At the appropriate moment, I ran, turned, and lunged for the door handle. When I turned, Ivan was eight feet away, staring at me. As the door clanged shut, my knees buckled and I fell to the floor.”

Richmond reminds us that consistent living produces its own protection. Seek it. Cherish it. Desire it. But solid food is for the mature who, because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14)

I believe ...

That all of God’s creations and purposes were intended to interface ...

That there are no loose threads or happenstance events in history …

That God’s purposes crisscross, transverse and zigzag until rich, deep truths emerge from our thick tapestries …

Thank you, Gary Richmond, for sharing your beautiful tapestry with us.