Traci and I are blessed with four kids. God has given us three biological children, AJ, BJ & CJ, and Tati a sweet 14-year-old girl who has recently adopted us. We are blessed. When AJ was just a little boy and before his sisters BJ & CJ had been born, and many years before Tati came to live with us, we started collecting these “Wildlife Fact Files”. We ended up with the whole collection and over the years the kids have loved looking at them. There are now seven binders full of animal facts and the kids (ok, ok, ok, not just the kids!) can be mesmerized for hours while reading them. You’ll hear “oohs” and “ahhhs” and “Oh…disgusting!” from them while they turn the pages.
I actually like leafing through the different creatures looking for good sermon illustrations and this last time I stumbled across the many different types of cats. Not the worthless…er…precious house cats that troll our neighborhood, but real cats. One of the oddest, and yet somehow captivating ones I found, is called the Serval. What makes these particular cats so interesting to me is how versatile their eating is. These guys can hunt just about anything, yet they only weigh up to 40lbs and have tails that can be almost as long as their short little bodies (2-3ft long body, with 1.5-2ft long tail).
These Servals have hearing like a bat. They can sit totally motionless in the grass waiting hours for prey as they listen to its movement. When they leap and pounce on their prey, they strike true over 50% of the time — they take their eating seriously! Not only can they sit quietly, they can move practically without stirring the air, making it possible to stalk prey for long periods of time before moving in for the kill. And then, if worse comes to worse, these cats can jump over 10 feet high and often snag birds right out of the air. Can you imagine being some hawk cruising over the ground look for a rat to eat and suddenly finding yourself eye-to-eye with a leaping Serval? What a lame way to die.
The Serval isn’t the strongest cat and their tiny little head looks more like one of those domestic rodents…er…creatures of beauty that roam our streets. But believe me, you wouldn’t want to find a Serval running across your back deck one night. What the Serval lacks in strength and stature, she makes up for it in agility, speed and adaptability.
Now here comes the awkward analogy.
Too often in life I think I try to picture myself as the Lion or the Leopard or the Cheetah or the Tiger when in reality I am a Serval. No one going on a Safari asks the guide, “Will we see Servals today?” but everyone is hoping for a Lion or a Tiger sighting. Probably most of us, if we’re honest, wish we were the wanted animals, the ones that have the most to offer others; the ones others are seeking. Yet it’s interesting that Jesus told his disciples not to be that kind of person.
On the night Jesus was going to be betrayed and taken to prison, He did something absolutely shocking after dinner. He got down on His hands and knees and He washed the feet of His disciples. He gave them this incredible picture and ended the lesson with these words:
You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. (John 13:13, 14)
I’m guessing when the Safari animals get together for their end-of-year awards banquet, the Lions and Cheetahs aren’t washing too many feet. I’m certain it’s creatures like the Servals that get that task. They aren’t the prettiest, they aren’t the biggest, strongest or most sought after, but they are gifted. They probably don’t even get many awards even though it’s certain they deserve them. The Cheetah always gets the fastest award (that arrogant little…), the Lion always takes best hunter even though everyone knows how lazy those beasts are. And of course, the Hyenas get the best jumper award although they actually just climb trees really well, don’t really jump much.
The thing of it all is that God made Servals just as He made Lions and Cheetahs and Hyenas. For example, there is only one Chuck Swindoll and while I’m confident this little illustration verifies his Lion-hood status vs my Serval-hood status when it comes to story-telling, it doesn’t negate the fact that God put me here to do His work with the gifts and talents He gave me. I may wish Swindoll would call and beg to know my story-telling secrets (by the way Chuck, my cel number is 551.333.3363), but God just wants me to use what He has given me to the best of my ability while I depend fully on His power to do so. I’m wasting my time — my most precious resource! — if I sit around wishing I was anything but who God made me to be.
I’m thankful for the Serval. That long-bodied, long-tailed, hippy kangaroo-like cat reminds me that living by God’s design is best. If I want to live my life outside the comfort of the boat and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom, then I need to embrace who He made me to be. I’ll happily be a Serval in the employment of my King and I hope I will always be eager to wash the feet of the Lions and Leopards who come my way. In many ways, I think Jesus was as much a Serval as He was a Lion. You?
Go ahead and take the plunge — life is better on the water!