I came across an article recently about a group of bears who had been released from captivity. Before their release they had been imprisoned in a zoo where they lived alone in cramped cages for TWENTY YEARS! They could barely walk inside these cages; their lives consumed with performing tricks for food and torture if they failed to comply before falling asleep in the same place they have to excrete. Their limbs had become rigid with arthritis from being forced to life inside cages instead of living like they were created to live – in open spaces, in the wild.
Now rescued by PETA, they have acres of grass where they are free to roam as they please, free to socialise with their peers, free to eat sustainable food and free to access water from a pool especially for them – all of these things they could never do while in captivity.
You can read the full inspiring article here:
It made me think about a recent conversation I had with some friends regarding the meaning of coming of age. The teen fiction market defines coming of age as a moment of epiphany where childhood innocence is lost and a character becomes an adult. While this may be the case to a certain extent, I believe that you can lose your innocence long before you come of age.
For me, coming of age is finally becoming the person you were created to be.
I lost my innocence at a very young age and in a nutshell became stuck in a cage – just like those bears. I was trapped and couldn’t choose the direction I wanted to go in, couldn’t socialise and my life became a performance – performing tricks in public. Even when I came to know Jesus, although my life improved, I was still trapped in that cage and it took being diagnosed with Epilepsy for me to be released from my cage. That diagnosis was the trigger and in a subversive view, it was my PETA – my rescue from my cage. I moved to London – my sanctuary and suddenly I was no longer locked in my cage with my demons. I “came of age” and like the bears rescued by PETA, I found sanctuary and found a personality and a life.
Those bears lost their innocence the day they were taken captive – probably stolen as cubs from their mothers.
Their coming of age came long after that when they were rescued in their elder years. Those bears were elderly before they finally found sanctuary and such was the concern regarding their age and state of health, they had to be checked over by a Vet to ensure that they would be able to survive in the wild. This makes me particularly sad and has a personal resonance. Many victims of abuse spend years and years in captivity and once (or if in some cases) you find your sanctuary it hurts to think of the years you lost inside the cage. I imagine those bears had given up any hope that there would be any life other than the one they had been forced to grow accustomed to. But it wasn’t too late for them and that is one beautiful story we can all hope for ourselves.
I came across this passage of scripture this morning and felt it a perfect fit for this post and so I just had to share:
“This is the way GOD put it: “They found grace out in the desert, these people who survived the killing. Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!” GOD told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love! And so now I’ll start over with you and build you up again, dear virgin Israel. You’ll resume your singing, grabbing tambourines and joining the dance. You’ll go back to your old work of planting vineyards on the Samaritan hillsides, And sit back and enjoy the fruit— oh, how you’ll enjoy those harvests! The time’s coming when watchmen will call out from the hilltops of Ephraim: ‘On your feet! Let’s go to Zion, go to meet our GOD!’””
Jeremiah 31:2-6 MSG