by S M Chen  | 17 December 2018  |

“You just call out my name…”
1971 song “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King


An e-pal posted a link to a recent BBC Earth 3.5’ video which, along with over 9 million other viewers, I watched with more than a little interest. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, it depicts some of the goings-on near a waterhole in Africa.

You can view the video clip here:

Red, an adult male lion has just left the waterhole in the flatlands of the savannah. No other animals are around (or so it seems). He may dine first, but drink last.

Suddenly, over 20 hyenas materialize. Seemingly out of nowhere, but, in truth, they were probably always within lurking distance.

A hyena is not a pretty animal. It is the contrasting yin to all the yangs of the animal kingdom—the Bambis, the pandas and koala bears, the baby fur seals with big eyes. It has ferocious teeth, slopes downward from front to back, has an upturned tail, and possesses a hideous laugh. It is, frankly (dare I write this, knowing there are such things as mother hyenas?) ugly. Ugly as sin.

(Although sin is not always ugly. Sometimes it is beguilingly appealing, as Eve of Eden must have found the dazzling serpent and forbidden fruit to be.)

Ordinarily, a single hyena will not attack a full-grown healthy lion (a cub or impaired lion? Another story). It knows better. But there is strength in numbers. It is no accident hyenas often hunt in packs.

Someone had a video camera at the ready, and recorded the unfolding of this remarkable event. I have watched National Geographic documentaries, and ordinarily naturalists do not intervene in the interactions between wildlife, no matter how they might wish, to ensure a (from a human standpoint) preferred outcome. The videographer in this instance was probably like-minded.

The lion was out in the open. There did not appear to be an object (a cave, a wall, even a tree) against which he could place his backside in order to face his attackers. And he chose not to run (might that tarnish his reputation as the king of beasts?). Rather, he would turn to face one or more hyenas, but that left his backside vulnerable.

The hyenas seemed determined to wear him down. And, even during the elapsed time of the brief video, the lion was wearing down.

I have little doubt that things might have turned out badly for the lion.

Except, this time, the lion had a friend.

Tatu, another adult male lion, showed up. Perhaps he heard the roars of Red as he tried to fend off the hyenas. Or maybe the still small voice whispered. We may not be the only ones to whom it speaks.

At the sight of him approaching, the hyenas dispersed.

They would live to hunt another day.

Had the hyenas not slunk away, the two lions could have stood tail to tail and faced them. Each would have had 180 degrees of space to contend with, but 180 is manageable. 360 degrees? Not so much.

The video closes with the two lions rubbing their heads with affection. They almost seem to be smiling. Red was certainly grateful.

Some curmudgeons (hopefully in the minority) might have rooted for the hyenas.

As for me, I found the video heartwarming and life-affirming.

I recall Aslan, the lion in “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe,” the 1950 children’s book by C S Lewis, Oxford don and Christian apologist. Is it any accident Aslan was an avatar for Christ?

Revelation 5:5 speaks of a Lion of the tribe of Judah. Most readers agree that this is none other than the One symbolized by Aslan.

George Bernard Shaw wrote a 1912 play, “Androcles and the Lion,” about the lion that had a thorn removed from its paw by Androcles. Shaw reimagines Androcles as a Christian about to be devoured in the Coliseum in Rome. But the lion refuses to cooperate. He remembers Androcles and his past kindness.


We may not be literally attacked by hyenas. But we may be bedeviled by troubles (sometimes of our own making) as ugly as hyenas. Our life may not be at stake, as was that of Red in BBC Earth. Or, on the other hand, it may be.

We would do well to remember the Lion.

All we need do is call out His name. And, as in the lyrics of the song by Carole King, He will (figuratively) come running.

Only, faster than we can imagine earthly legs might carry. Faster than (if you’re into superheroes) a speeding bullet. He will be there in an instant, as He was in the fiery furnace into which the three Hebrew worthies were cast (how did Nebuchadnezzar recognize the fourth figure in the furnace as that of the Son of the Almighty? Might the still small voice have whispered to him?).

I am not saying Tatu came to the rescue of Red because of something (or Someone) supernatural. But then again, I am not prepared to say something extraordinary did not happen on the African plain that day.

No less a thinker than Albert Einstein opined there are two ways of looking at life. One is there are no miracles. The other is that everything is a miracle.

There may be a third way: Miracles can and do occur. Only they often go unrecognized. Like the still small voice, they do not announce themselves.

Writer and humorist Mark Twain knew the importance of words. He once contrasted “lightning” with “lightning bug” to emphasize how important a single word can be. To my mind, both nouns are miraculous (albeit on a different scale).


Over the years I have derived comfort from the closing lines of “To a Waterfowl,” (1818) by American poet William Cullen Bryant:

“He who, from zone to zone
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must trace alone
Will lead my steps aright.”

We do, indeed, have a Friend.


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S.M. Chen writes from California.

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