Perhaps one of the most impactful books I’ve read in this season is Levi Lusko’s Through the Eyes of a Lion. I talk more about this book in this post. I’m excited to have the opportunity to spend a couple days with Levi in May and visit his church. Levi lost his 5-year-old daughter 2 years ago to a freak asthma attack. She died in his arms as he was trying to revive her. Amanda and I heard his story 2 weeks before Amanda was killed. We were in tears on a train to a romantic getaway in Chicago as we listened to him preach a message at Elevation Church. The message was about how he and his family had learned to overcome the greatest trial in their life through the resurrection power of Jesus. I look back on that moment and know that God was preparing us to walk through the greatest trial of both of our lives...one that would take Amanda’s life, and one that would knock the breath out of mine.
One the most profound concepts he wrote about is this concept of "Running Toward the Roar.” Let me un-pack it:
Most of us have seen a National Geographic or Discovery Channel special of lions hunting in the plains of Africa. What you may not know is that it’s not the males but the females, the lionesses, that are actually the hunters. The males are inherently too slow and lazy. Sounds not unlike the human species!
The male does play a specific role, however. He will get on one side of a watering hole where gazelles or wildebeests have chosen to bath. He will flare his mane, get as tall as he possibly can and let out a ferocious roar that would shake the nerves of any living creature within a 50 mile radius! The roar is supposed to scare the prey into running away. What the prey doesn’t know is that the lionesses have strategically placed themselves on the opposite side of the watering hole. So when the wildebeest is running AWAY from the roar into what they think is safety, they are actually running straight into an ambush. If they would have run TOWARD the roar, as counterintuitive and frightening as it may seem, they would actually be able to scamper away into safety. The male lion's “bark" is much more dangerous than his bite.
Scripture says that our enemy, Satan, prowls around like a ROARING lion, seeking whom he could devour. The reality is if you are a Christian, you are not in danger of being devoured by the enemy. He has no claim over your life. You are a new creation, and no longer a slave to the curse of sin and death. But the enemy can scare you into being devoured by pain and fear. In fact, his intention is to steal, kill and destroy. He wants to steal your joy, kill your hope, and destroy the purposes God has for your life.
What people will often do when they encounter a trial, a tragedy, or a painful experience is they will try to run away from the pain. Pain is terrifying. It’s messy. It sneaks up on you and can cripple you in an instant. It knocks the breath out of you. But it can’t kill you. Most people are fearful of stepping into the pain, letting their heart feel the full weight of it, working through it, and giving it over to the Lord. It’s makes you feel too exposed and vulnerable. And so they never actually come to a place of healing. So what people try to do is box up the pain. They run away from it. The only problem is that by doing so they are running straight into an ambush. Months, years, even decades down the road it will ambush them and take them out. When you try to box it up, it booby traps you later - this time with even more ferocity.
My family and I have decided to adopt Levi Lusko’s approach. Instead of running away from the pain we’ve decided to run toward it. We’ve decided to embrace it. We’ve decided to deal with it head-on.
So when I’m driving down the road and a song comes on that reminds me of Amanda, instead of turning it as fast as I can, I’ll listen to the whole thing. I may weep uncontrollably the whole time. On one occasion I had to pull the car over to the shoulder because I was crying so hard I couldn’t see the road in front of me. But that’s ok!
When people want to talk about Amanda, I gladly talk about her. I don’t shy away from conversations. It doesn’t matter how awkward or painful that conversation may be.
When I get caught up daydreaming of a memory of Amanda, I let myself feel the full weight of the void. I don’t want to bottle it up and push it away. I don’t want it to booby trap me later!
Perhaps the greatest example of running toward the roar we were faced with recently was going back into my house where Amanda was killed. As much as I didn’t want to step back into that living room where I found her, I knew I couldn’t keep that boxed up. The morning I returned, I put worship music in my earbuds, laid down in the spot I found her, wept, prayed and worshipped. And I’ll tell you, something miraculous happened. About 45 minutes of running toward the roar and I was better. I had released it all. The darkness that, in my mind, had hovered over that location was now taken captive by a risen savior and I wasn’t afraid of it anymore.
Initially when you run toward the roar it’s excruciating; but eventually it’s healing.
You can’t selectively numb your heart. You can’t numb the parts of your heart that feel pain and still be attuned to the parts that feel pleasure. You either numb it all, or you feel it all. There is no alternative. Maybe that’s why Psalm 30 talks about God turning our mourning into dancing. In order to feel the joy of dancing on the other side you must be willing to step into the sting of mourning.
So what roar do you need to run toward today?