Monday, August 8, 2011

The Peaceable Kingdom

As Alyssa tells it, When I was little, my mom wanted to take us to a music festival at Wolf Trap. Being terrified of wolves, I was not interested. She even called Wolf Trap so they could tell me there were no wolves there. One of the first acts was "Peter and the Wolf," complete with man in wolf costume. My dad said I climbed up him and screamed for a long time. I did not go back to Wolf Trap for 25 years. Good parenting, mom and dad. 

There's a little more to this story.  We could not figure out why Alyssa was so terrified (before the appearance of the person in the wolf costume prancing down the aisle) the whole time we were there.  Much, much later we found out that her sister was whispering to her in the back seat on the way over that we were lying about the wolves, that they were lurking in the woods at Wolf Trap, and they had a special taste for little girls her age.  Sisterly affection is a wonderful thing.

Eventually, of course, Alyssa overcame her fear of wolves, and this story is now part of family lore.  When she sent the picture of her and the wolf, she also wrote when I asked her what she was there for,  I was there to conquer my childhood fears. AND I DID. I think she was only being half jocular. Facing and overcoming childhood fears occupies us all and takes so much courage (I am still afraid of snakes). 

I was also thinking of this experience in conjunction with the passage from Isaiah 11 sometimes called "The Peaceable Kingdom":  

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 

This passage was the basis for American artist Edward Hicks' painting depicting the events described there.  Hicks actually painted hundreds of versions during his lifetime.

It is also the basis for a beautiful anthem with words by the late J. Paul Williams and music by Anna Laura Page.  Becky directed it during our choir tour in Germany and France. I found it particularly poignant to sing it while looking out over the grave markers at the American Cemetery in Lorraine, France.

In the holy mountain of the Lord
all war and strife will cease.
In the holy mountain of the Lord
creation will be at peace.

The leopard and goat will graze,
The lion will feed on straw,
They will war no more,
A child shall lead them all.

(A video of the European Tour Choir singing “Creation Will Be at Peace” at Heidelberg Cathedral may be found at

And one final picture.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but in this life, fears are overcome, there is forgiveness and there is peace. A child, even an adult child, shall lead them indeed.

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