Two hours away from our own front door we traveled completely around the world. We didn't miss a continent. From Paraguay to the Congo. From the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania into the tropical rain forests of Malagasy, across the Indian Ocean to mysterious Malaya. Then it was the tundra of the Arctic Circle, Scandinavia to Mesopotamia, Egypt to China, Manchuria to Siberia. From the icy heights of the Himalayan peaks, across the vast outback of Australia, on deep into the tangled jungles of New Guinea . . . .
In only forty-five minutes.
We ooohd and ahhhd our way through every conceivable scent, sight, and sound. Nothing was the same, except the small familiar sign that kept popping up on the trails and the trees: Please Don't Feed the Animals.
You guessed it. The famed San Diego Zoo earned another blue ribbon. Where else can a family hear the shrill scream of peacocks running free, touch an elephant's snout, study in detail the colorful crest of a rare cockatoo, look into the ceaseless stare of a silvery gray koala perched on the forked branches of a eucalyptus, or stand eighteen inches from a cobra . . . all in one afternoon? I'll tell you, it makes the child come out from inside us. As we marvel at God's handiwork among His creatures, we gain a renewed respect for His creative genius. Who else could ever come up with a fat-tailed gecko? Or the two-toned tapir? Or that weird, long-tongued okapi . . . part horse and part giraffe(!) . . . with fur like velvet and enormous ears?
Above and beyond all this, we had a rare treat seldom witnessed in that hundred-acre nucleus of Balboa Park. It was so unusual that our salty guide was suddenly mute. We happened upon a newborn. Can't remember the four-footed species, but the tiny thing was no more than two minutes old. There it lay out in the open. Still curled as though in the womb. Wet, wide-eyed, and flop-eared, that awkward, fuzzy ball of new life was blinking at its very first glimpse of dirt, rock, sun, and water. Standing over it was its mama, fresh blood on her strong hind legs as she proudly licked away the afterbirth and the cord. The other animals? Hardly a second glance. They milled around totally unconcerned.
We could stay no longer. We had to "stay on schedule," so we roared off, leaving a choking cloud of diesel exhaust in our wake.
Many moons have passed since that memorable episode, yet I can't get over the analogy. What happened down there is an amazingly accurate scenario of what happens every day around our world. Not physically, but spiritually. Not among caged animals, but in human hearts. Whether in Madagascar or Monterrey, Zaire or Zurich, Belfast or Birmingham, as traffic swirls by and the pace increases and pressure mounts . . . a new birth from heaven suddenly transpires. For some, it's in the heat of the day and for others it happens toward evening or in the dead of night. Some newborns take their first breath in a small church on a windswept hill after hearing the simple yet stirring story of the Savior's death. Others are in a lonely prison cell sitting beside a radio. Still others are on a campus surrounded by a few Christians who care.
God steps in. Unannounced, He bursts into the soul, bringing forgiveness, cleansing, peace, a whole new perspective and dimension. He calls it "eternal life." And the newborn? The Scriptures paint the same portrait for all newborns:
a new creature . . . old things passed away . . . new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
New hope. New attitudes. New feelings. New direction. New destiny. The newborn shakes his head, blinks, looks around at his first glimpse of new life, and he can hardly believe it. And the world? Why, of course, it rushes on. Unconcerned, busy, preoccupied; it has to "stay on schedule." Someone's eternal new birth has occurred. Although it doesn't attract a second glance from those standing around, God's kingdom is being silently enlarged.
It happens every day in our vast world. It even happened today. For all you know, maybe two minutes away from your own front door.
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