I read a story about a man with a recurring nightmare. In the dream, he was pursued by a fierce lion which kept chasing him until he dropped from exhaustion and woke screaming.
The dream disturbed him greatly and, eventually, he sought counsel from his pastor. As they spoke, the pastor asked if there was something troubling going on in his life: a chronic illness, a pending divorce, financial collapse. The man stated that his life was in order and that he had no serious issues that he was dealing with.
His pastor then asked to pray with him and, in the course of the prayer, he asked the man to imagine the lion and, if he felt able, ask the lion what he represented.
Hesitantly, the man agreed. He closed his eyes and, within a few minutes, described the lion approaching him from a distance, leaping through tall grass, snorting and shaking its head. When the lion drew near, the man raised his arms: “Stop! Stop!” he yelled. “What are you?? What are doing??”
The lion looked at the man and said, “I am your courage and your strength. Why are you running from me?”
Occasionally, I am asked to join in on meetings with young men who are discerning a call to the priesthood. I admire these fellows very much. In a society that exalts status, achievement and self-satisfaction, they dare to scan the horizon and seek virtues like fortitude, resilience and self-sacrifice.
They are not the sort of men who run from lions in their dreams because they know that the lion that roams in the outback is none less than the Lion of Judah.
In a rural diocese like mine, priests travel many miles to serve parishes in remote areas. The work entails more than preaching and administering the sacraments. It demands an inner strength that compels the priest to open his heart and say, “All I have, all I am…I give to you.”
Such is the life of a priest.
At the scenes of roadside accidents where death has occurred, in intensive care units where infants gasp for breath, inside a kitchen where a wall bears evidence of a violent fist, the priest is infused, by the grace of God, with spiritual strength and courage.
This is what happens when a man is captivated–as opposed to captured–by the Lion of God.
Some men run from lions, others pray to become like them.