On faith, fear, and walking with lions

Above, here I am in 2012 walking with lions in Gweru, Zimbabwe.

Above, here I am in 2012 walking with lions in Gweru, Zimbabwe.

By Jessica Brodie

When I heard we’d be walking with lions on my mission trip a few years ago in Zimbabwe, I thought that meant we’d walk “near” the lions, or the lions would be on a leash, or maybe even in a caged-off area as the wild lions prowled around us.

Nope. They meant walk with lions—as in me, two adult lions, the rest of my mission team, and two lion handlers.

Living at the wildlife reserve in Gweru, the lions were accustomed to people, and they frequently walked with other groups of humans like this. But they weren’t “tame” lions. They had claws and teeth just like all lions. And, of course, animal instincts.


Yeah, I was nervous.

But the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this—well, let’s just say I didn’t want to miss out.

No ponytails, they said, as we lined up for the “walk with lions” experience—the lions might think you’re their toy. I quickly unbound my long hair.

Shoulders back, they said. Exude confidence. You don’t want the lions to smell your fear.

All I could do was pray: God, please put your hand of protection upon me. Please keep us safe.

And then suddenly, we were in! And we were walking through the bush exploring their natural habitat!

The fear was still there, but peace settled. I was walking with lions, one of the most incredible experiences of my life thus far, and that fact alone was amazing enough to help me relax and enjoy the experience.

We walked next to the lions, alone and en masse. We posed for pictures with the lions. I even got to grab hold of one of the lion’s tails. And we all made it out alive.

I’m not a big risk-taker. But when you’re facing something scary, I’ve learned sometimes you need to take a breath, trust that God is with you, and go for it. It’s not that you become fearless, but rather that you transcend your fear.

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid,” Psalm 118:6 reminds us. “What can mere mortals do to me?” 

Whether mortals or lions, whether death or arachnophobia or a fear of public speaking, God’s with you.

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