Born to Be Wild

One night, sitting in front of the family television, for the first time in my life, I sobbed at the end of a touching movie. The year was 1966, and the film Born Free aired in homes across America. The movie, based on a true story, tells of a lioness named Elsa, an orphaned lion cub who was raised in captivity and later released into the wild.

At the age of six, the warm tears that slid across my freckled cheeks were not like any I had experienced. They were not the same tears of pain I felt when I found a bee with my bare foot in our clover-filled yard, or those of sadness when I pressed my face against an airport window as my dad boarded a plane for a business trip. These tears were different. They had responded to the heartfelt gift of love Elsa’s owners had for her in the story. They knew that to be wild was to be free from the caged borders of limitation, able to exercise creativity and exploration. Loving Elsa, her owners made a way for her to be the beautiful, wild creature God intended her to be, despite their heartbreak.

I was just a child, but I recall thinking how frightened that lioness must have been to walk away from all that felt familiar and safe. Watching the end of that film left me feeling the complexity of holding the beauty of love and freedom, along with the ache of loss and the uncertainty of the unknown.

Throughout my life, I have visited the push and pull of wanting to hold onto something I found valuable, but knowing I must let go. That feeling was present when I moved away from my hometown as a young adult. It was there when I dropped my little ones off in the carpool line for the first time, and again when I watched my eldest child turn away and walk into an unfamiliar brick building on her first day of college. Three times I felt the ache of an ending coupled with heartfelt joy as my husband walked each of our daughters down the aisle to join the love of her life.

Each time, I wanted to hold tightly to the familiar, but knew growth and freedom would come with letting go. Still, there are places where I would prefer to remain confined to a safe space—choosing to remain comfortable rather than venture to a place where unseen possibilities can be explored.

Caged, I become weak, lose the motivation to grow and learn, and become complicit in my captivity.

Trusting God’s ultimate plan by stepping out of my confined comfort into the hope a new season brings is not to “let go,” but to embrace the freedom He designed me for—a kind of freedom that allows me to stretch my wings and soar. As I venture beyond the familiar, I can now see that the door has always been held open. I am invited to hold both the beauty of what I love and hold dear, along with liberty and a curiosity for what goodness will come. There, like Elsa, I will find myself free to be the beautiful, wild creature God intended me to be.

Wendy Lipham lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast where she has taught interview and communication skills for over twenty years. Having heard God’s call to work with young women who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, she is further inspired by the growth of her “Beautifully Broken” story group. She enjoys writing, drawing, and needlepoint. Most of all, she loves living life beside her husband and hearing the laughter of their seven grandchildren.