On Comfort Zones & Mama Giraffes

Like most people I have several knick-knacks and pieces of “art” spread around my desk and the cubby hole shelves behind it. Most of it you would probably not appreciate, unless you knew the stories behind them.

My collection ranges from a baseball with a faded signature of someone I led to Christ in a dugout, a carved elephant inside an elephant from India, a jagged piece of rock from the Berlin Wall, a real widow’s mite, and a casino token that we received in our VBS offering a few years back.

And then there’s the drawing on the back of a Shelby Crossings offering envelop, taped to the credenza behind my monitor. It’s the head and neck of a giraffe, protruding through the clouds, with something like a halo glistening around it’s head. The words above it provide a description, but may leave you wondering even more after you read them.

“Celestial Mama Giraffe,” it reads.

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.

Several years ago I preached a message, I think it was on the Old Testament patriarch Joseph, about how God uses trials and difficult times to grow our faith and build our character. In the midst of the message, I shared a story I had read from a man named Gary Richmond.

Gary happened to be at the Los Angeles Zoo at just the right moment to witness the birth of a giraffe. The mother was standing while giving birth, with the calf’s hooves and head already visible. “When is she going to lie down?” Gary asked the zookeeper.  “She won’t,” he answered. “But that’s a [ten foot drop to the] ground! Isn’t anyone going to catch the calf?” “Try catching it if you want,” the zookeeper responded, “but its mother has enough strength in her hind legs to kick your head off.”

Soon the calf hurled forth, and landed hard on his back. The infant giraffe laid where it fell, almost motionless. No more than a minute passed and then something totally shocking happened. The mother kicked her baby. She booted her own little one hard enough to send it sprawling head over hooves. “Why’d she do that?” Gary asked. “She wants it to get up,” answered the zoo keeper. Somehow, the newborn giraffe knew what his mother wanted and awkwardly struggled to rise. But after a few feeble tries, it gave up, sinking back to the ground. 

Boom! A second hearty kick from the mother rolled the young one over several more times. The calf again tried to prop itself up again on its stilt-like legs, and finally managed an upright stance. Gary Richmond marveled at what he was beholding, charmed by the sight of this fledgling giraffe.

But then suddenly and unexpectedly, something happened that took Gary’s breath away. Almost as soon as the calf gained stability in its upright perch, the mother kicked it off its feet! This time the zoo keeper didn’t wait for the question. He simply explained, “She wants it to remember how it got up. In the wild, if it didn’t quickly follow the herd, predators would pick it off.”

And sometime about that point in telling the story on that Sunday morning, I mentioned that, like a “celestial mama giraffe,” sometimes God has to do the same for us, pushing our props out from under us, keeping us from getting too comfortable, making sure that we get up when we are knocked down, sometimes even giving us what seems like a swift kick to teach us the lessons of faith we would never learn if everything always went our way.

And someone in our congregation–a Montevallo student actually, whose wedding I officiated a few years back–doodled a simple masterpiece on the back of an offering envelope that I still look at almost every day as a reminder of how God grows us and teaches us by pushing us out of our comfort zones.

With that in mind, I’m sure you have heard about the news, concerning the issues with the lease of two of our buildings here on the Shelby Crossings, and the fact that our rent is likely going to rise to the point where it will be cost-prohibitive for us to stay here. We have had such a good deal here, for so long, that it has made it hard to leave.

But now, there’s a very real possibility of us having to find a new location where our church can gather for worship. As I said on Sunday, we are not panicking, and we’re actually excited about what the Lord is up to, because we see how He is stirring us beyond the status quo. This very well may mean significant changes for our ministry in the coming months, but hopefully the change will grow our faith and dependence on the Lord.  And my prayer is that this will be a catalyst for pushing us on to greater heights of ministry in our community.

I hope as the Lord pushes us out of our comfort zone that you will join us in praying for His direction and provision, as we seek His will and His favor in this time. I am excited to see what He has in store for us as He stretches us and pushes us (like a mama giraffe) to get us where He wants us, drawing us to Himself along the way.

I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving. I’m so thankful for each of you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday. 

–Pastor Ken