PRESENT IN THE FACE OF THE ENEMY

“How a man keeps his wife and children safe.”

A game drive through the Great Serengeti National Park in East Africa was always the highlight of any vacation of ours when we lived in Kenya. Not every game drive was successful. Often, the mere glimpse of a male lion was a highlight, making one particular sitting we had the most memorable of all.

If the noble lion is king of the beasts, Cape Buffalo are the meter thick walls of neighboring kingdoms his great strength rarely topples. Buffalo bulls weigh close to 2000 pounds and stand five feet or greater at the shoulder. Armored across their broad necks and shoulders by thick folds of tough hide, these brutes brandish spiked horned helmets over a meter wide! Despite the King of the Beast’s intimidating prowess he is certainly matched by the fearless bravado of this top rival – the Cape Buffalo.

Once, my family and I happened upon an amazing moment—a lone buffalo under attack! We slowly approached in our off road vehicle to witness a lioness facing off with a buffalo mother who had just calved. As we came near, the lioness’ mate, a fully-grown male, shadowed our vehicle, shield it’s approach. Then, as if practiced, the female drew the cow’s attention away from the crouching male while at the same instant, the male, now on the cow’s blindside, made a full charge toward the rear of the preoccupied cow. He leapt onto her back, sinking teeth into her spine and ripping hip muscles with his claws. In a split second, the lioness snatched the newborn calf from between its mother’s legs and dragged it to a thicket nearby. The shocked mother spun round in panic but the calf was gone. The male lion, now solely focused on killing the cow, became her concern. With the calf lost, she was not fighting for her life.

The lioness returned a few minutes later to tag-team against the lone buffalo. Several times we thought she would die in the pair’s grip, but she refused to go down. With every blow of her massive horns we cheered, and in the end, it was the cats who retreated, leaving the bloodied, heart broken victor defiantly standing.

The Africans have a tale they shared with us about the buffalo. It told of a trio of buffalos surrounded by a pack of lions. Standing tail to tail the three defend themselves by facing their attackers. In this formation, they could not be caught off guard. The fable continues, however, that the lion pride met to discuss this situation and devise a strategy. “If we may divert one or more from the trio, we will eat them all.”  It worked and as a result, a pride’s common assault method on buffalo is to divide them, drawing one away from the rest, because they stand no chance against a united herd. The African parable concludes with the saying, “Kipagenge ko gimno” or “In unity there is strength.” For the Cape Buffalo, his strength and hardware not withstanding, standing together, facing his enemies is his greatest defensive weapon.

Now, let’s turn from the Serengeti game drive and enter into your personal domain. Fathers, you are warned that you have an enemy. He roars and prowls like a lion. He wants to maim, to kill, to destroy your life. He wants to destroy your children’s lives like those lions did that Cape Buffalo cow’s calf and end your lineage using the same technique as Serengeti lions.

As a man, you are strong and smart. You have a lot going for you. You’re a “bull” in some respects, but your kids and wife are safe only if you are present. Where can we suppose the Cape bull was that afternoon? Grazing on green pasture? Mixing with the herd? Chasing the cows? What we know with certainty is he was absent. Had he been with his cow, defending his calf, it would have survived and its mother would not have suffered her wounds. There is a very close parallel in human families.

Steve Farrar in his excellent book Point Man: How a Man can Lead his Family wrote:

We are in the greatest danger of all when we think we are safe. When a guy begins to think that this (sexual immorality) could never happen to him, then he needs to think again…. Our enemy is so cunning that he will wait forty or even fifty years to set a trap…That’s why we can never deceive ourselves that we are somehow “above” sexual sin. The moment you begin to view yourself in that light, you can be sure your carcass will one day be hanging in cold storage.

He goes on to recount a story of a man who had thought himself above temptation, only to fall. Steve wrote:

Another discarded wife. Two more shattered children. Another family for the casualty list. Why? Because he bought the lie that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence But it never is.

 The problem is this: When you leave your wife to commit adultery with another woman, you take yourself with you.”

Every week I counsel men in recovery from addiction. The one common constant in all their stories is an absent or emotionally disconnected father. I’ve NEVER had a single counselee with a father who was present and engaged emotionally with his son….not once in almost 10 years of practice! Boys (all children for that matter) who have an engaged father are as safe as a Cape Buffalo calf in a united herd. Such kids are protected from attack by Daddy bull’s presence.

I observe a similar occurrence with women. In my career, I’ve never counseled a married woman who had a husband that was present and protectively caring for her heart. Such women don’t need counseling. Women come to me come because their husbands are physically or emotionally absent, detached, or distractedly chasing something else. A woman who’s man has taken himself away from her to pursue work, entertainment, or a woman falls prey to the lions of depression, fear, anger, adultery etc.

Kipagenge ko gimno! There is safety and strength in unity. Men, don’t stray. Stay with your family. Make them your priority. Seek the aid of God and a few men with whom you can be candidly accountable — the rest of the herd. Focus and stand your ground. Make certain that not one of you little ones is lost by ensuring that YOUR bride never knows the pain of facing the Lion alone. Be strong. Be a fortress. Be their protective wall and sanctuary. In short, be present!