One day on a cold winter morning, before the sun shone it’s warmth on the tips of the mountain tops, a delivery was made. A mother sheep, tired from her labor, turns to look at her newborn son.
Nothing could prepare her for what she found beneath that blanket of hay. As she moved the straw aside, she peered at her newborn babe, holding a face of love that only a mother can conjure. That face lasted only a moment, as long perhaps as a shooting star burning itself out in the earths atmosphere. Her face, without her permission turn from love to bewilderment as she gazed at a lion cub where her baby should be. “What had happened?” She thought. “How can this be?” She questioned. Never before has this happened in the 100 years that this flock has lived in the shadows and valleys of these mountains.
Her surprise lived itself out. In a moment her heart reached out to her slumbering cub and kissed him on a tender cheek, accepting the very thing that she could not understand. She knew, however, that she had to hide him from the judgments of her peers that were sure to reject him.
The days grew longer, and with them the cub. He was now strong and playful, getting into all the wonderful things that caused his mother trouble. She knew the day had arrived, this sorrowful necessary day. The day she was to show her cub to her flock and the world; a flock that would demand an explanation that she did not possess, and a world that would not accept a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He was no wolf, this she knew. He was kind and gentle of heart, curious about his world, and very strong. It was this very strength that she feared, though. Not because he had done her harm, but because his strength would become his merciless judge as others would only fear him. She knew that this day was the last that she could hide her secret. Prying eyes have already seen, running off to warn the others of the monster that dwelt in their midsts. There would be disbelief at first, but verification by the elders was sure to come. And so it did. The other mothers were the first to arrive, since they were the first to hear. Mother turned to her cub, and whispered into his eager ear, “Remember what I have taught you, be meek and humble of heart so that others may know you as I do, and know that I love you no matter what comes this day.”
“He simply cannot stay!” they said, “He is a threat to us all!” They exclaimed. This sentiment and others echoed through the valley, as shock and dismay transformed into primal fear.
Before long he was taken from her long embrace and brought to the edge of Townsville where he was found by a farmers child and taken to the center of town to be caged for all to see. There he stayed and there he grew mighty and hearty, never forgetting his mother’s words.
A man was charged with care of the lion. He had around his neck a key that opens the door to the cage. Visitors and curious passerby’s came to visit him, but never offered a comforting words or an act of kindness. After all he was only a sheep in lion’s disguise. The Mayor of Townsville made plenty of money for his own purposes and his own pockets by the strange display. “A touch of the wild here in Townsville come see for yourself!” He would proclaim at the top of his voice the way a circus man would call to anyone with a nickel in their pockets. He was a spectacle in their eyes and so, being meek and humble of heart, he became a spectacle in his heart and mind. A spectacle for profit and nothing more.
The days turned to gray, food had long lost its flavor, and the sun never felt warm, despite his long mane that had now fully grown in. The man with the key came twice a day. The young lion watched carefully as he opened the door, leaving a morsel of food behind and closed it. After the man left the lion always test of the door, hoping one day it would open but alas, he was met with a sturdy bolt locked shut and tight. He longed for his freedom and his mother’s breath upon his cheek, but loneliness was all he knew.
One day, as the lion slept away his sorrow, a boy approached his cage, and poked him with a stick through the bars. His taunts and jeers fell onto the lion, already full grown, but still only a sheep in disguise. Abuses such as these became his daily chore, to put up with prodding sticks, tossed pebbles, and of course the names they called him. “Lambert is his name” they said, “since he is no giant but only a lamb.” As the days blurred together, his bars encroached upon him. His prison seemed smaller than the day before. Remembering his mother he cried out loud, “Where is your love now mother! I have been meek and humble of heart but the these abuses are too much for me. Is it my fault that I was born of you? Why must I suffer without cause and without end?”
He longed for the key that hung around his keepers neck, but the man was quite careful, never giving opportunity for him to grasp it. It was hopeless, there was no way out.
A day came to be, much like the day of his birth, that the children of Townsville came to visit him, well not so much him as much as the sight of him. Their abuses and blows landed on his tender heart one after the other, until finally something happened.
Without his permission, his body tensed, his teeth grit and his heart raced. Never before had he felt so strange and yet so strong. He jumped to his feet and with his front paws propping him up to his prison bars he yelled, “Enough!”
The children near him heard his cry as a gigantic roar, coming from his depths, a primal force he possessed by nature. Their faces paled, their knees buckled, (no need to mention their leaky fundamentals). As they turned to flee they ran over one another to finding their escape.
That day the lion came to realize that the key to his freedom did not only lay around the neck of his keeper, but also it lay deep within himself. His strength grew as he pried apart his cage, and he was left staring at his former home, alone and free.
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yesterday I was a boy in a 38-year-old body. Today I am a man one day old.