The Zoo

by DL Mayfield


If you wait until you got time to write a novel, or time to write a story, or time to read the hundred thousands of books you should have already read – if you wait for the time, you will never do it. ‘Cause there ain’t no time; world don’t want you to do that. World wants you to go to the zoo and eat cotton candy, preferably seven days a week.

–Harry Crews


It’s true: world wants you to be distracted as all get-out, to flitter and flutter until we are too tired to do much use. World wants you to bounce around social media, gracing everyone with your thoughts on every little thing. World wants you to watch stupid shows about inane people experiencing one trivial problem after another, wants us to think it hilarious when people consistently fail to engage each other on a deep level. World wants you to buy more, on trend, on sale, because the faster you buy the less you care about the hands that make. World wants you to be a consumer, preferably seven days a week.

Church can be much the same too. There isn’t any time for contemplation, for shades of discourse, for prayers without words or answers that don’t match ours. Church wants you to have a happy family, the job that you want, the things you need to feel blessed and secure. Church wants you to be political, but only once every four years. Church wants you to evangelize, to make sure everybody believes just like you do, the only plain way to read it. Church wants you to go out and do some good, but keep it light and happy and fixable, worthy of a picture or two. Church wants to bus you in for one week year, to work with the poor and powerless. Church wants you involved in studies and retreats, ESL classes and outreaches, preferably seven days a week.

World wants us to be busy, because then we can’t get into any real trouble.
World wants us to be spectators, congregants, hearers of the word; because then the Church can’t write the story she was born to tell.

But kingdoms built on love take time; time we don’t have to spend anymore. Relationships only grow when there is mutuality, where no one is the benefactor, no one is the needy. Engagement only comes when everyone else is more interesting than you, where you are blessed to learn. Jesus wants us to be prophesiers, truth-tellers, teachers, helpers, people who speak in holy languages; Jesus wants us to be servants, merciful souls, givers, and healers.

Jesus wants us. May your kingdom come.


Post by D.L. Mayfield. Image from Getty Images.

26 Responses to “The Zoo”

  1. Holly November 8, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    This piece…like a gut punch. Piercingly honest and true and spirit spoken. This one won’t leave me alone, I know it, feel it, fear it. Thank you for speaking deep into the dark places.

    • DL Mayfield November 9, 2012 at 5:47 am #

      thank you. this was not an easy one to hit “publish” on. it won’t leave me alone either.

  2. Elizabethh @wynnegraceappears November 8, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    I am haunted in a good way by your words. Because Truth shakes, rattles, and wakes-up. And this does just that. These words pinch me, and my spirit wants to respond. You have taken your gift and ministered to a soul and what is left for me is to respond, prayerfully and mercifully. One small bite at a time. Savoring your words.

  3. Elizabeth W. Marshall November 8, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    What beautiful Truth telling. I am haunted by your words. They pinch my spirit and wake me up. Savoring all of this, one small bite at a time. A cold splash of water in me and on me and I am left to prayerfully respond. This stirs my soul. You root this out with tender Mercies, this, from the deep dark soil of the Church.

  4. Ed November 8, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    This is such a wonderfully succinct and punchy way to capture the heart of ministry: “Engagement only comes when everyone else is more interesting than you, where you are blessed to learn.” That fascination with others and those moments when others teach me are the moments when I am most present.

    • DL Mayfield November 9, 2012 at 5:48 am #

      been meditating on Philippians 2, and the concept of love therein. pretty heady stuff.

  5. LjDowns November 8, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Wow! I haven’t read anything this convicting and spot on for a long, long time. I’ve been bamboozled by far too many of the shimmery things described. The writing is also fantastic. Thank you and bravo!

  6. kim November 8, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    So distilled and dead on. Thank you. Taking courage and making time for those important holy things: “contemplation, for shades of discourse, for prayers without words or answers that don’t match ours.”

    I appreciate your encouragement and gentle warning. I have so been suckered before.

  7. Leslie November 8, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Beautifully written, DL. You paint a beautiful picture of what we have to look forward to.

  8. John November 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Thank you, D.L…and amen.

  9. Sarah Bessey November 8, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Whew. That leaves me breathless – and convicted, DL.

  10. Jess November 8, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    YES. A thousand times. I needed to read this today. Thanks.

  11. thefisherlady November 8, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    nicely done and true!

  12. Tara November 8, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Beautifully said! Good job!

  13. idelette November 8, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    Brilliant. Just brilliant.

  14. idelette November 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    Just brilliant.

  15. Hope November 8, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    God has been trying to write this on my heart for a few years. Thank you for bravely picking up the pen.

  16. Diana November 8, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    Well, dang, girl! Way to sucker punch a woman who’s exhausted and heartbroken over her fading mama and wondering where to turn next. Yeah – the zoo sounds MIGHTY good tonight, I must say. But then, this is where I’m called just now in my life. . . tending to aging moms who are losing so much of themselves; tending to sick and/or searching-for-answers-grandchildren who need love and attention; tending to souls in my study who wonder about God and what they believe and how much further-in-and-higher-up they really want to go (and me, too, on that one!); offering 6-hour Ignatian retreats once a quarter so that there will be space for quiet, for contemplation, for deepening and ripening. No, I’m not working at a soup kitchen. Maybe I should be. No, I’m not going on a mission trip. I doubt very much that I should be. I like my comforts – a lot. I love my family – a lot. I like walking with people who are searching – a lot. I’m learning to love writing – maybe too much. So, yeah. I’m a mess – trying to sort out the siren call of the world from the sweeter, quieter call of the Spirit. And feeling like I’m botching it bigtime. You know what? We are ALL a mixed-up mash-up of world and spirit. I believe – help thou my unbelief!! (And thank you – really. I mean that. Even though I’m reeling.)

    • DL Mayfield November 9, 2012 at 5:50 am #

      diana! i love you so much. it does not sound like you have been eating popcorn all your days. it sounds like you are in the hard part of being awake. you NEED to write your book! thank you so much for sharing here.

  17. Tanya Marlow November 9, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    Oh wow. This is a real challenge to me. I like busy and the zoo… I need to hear this. Thank you.

  18. Kris November 9, 2012 at 5:07 am #

    Oh my. Yes. Thank you for this.

  19. Crystal November 9, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    The zoo — not everyday — was, for me, a healing balm this week. I took my daughter, held her tight, and let it soothe me. But I hear you. Thank you for writing.

  20. Heather November 9, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    This is so beautiful.

  21. Amber November 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    A good reminder during NaNoWriMo ;)
    I teach on Wednesday evenings at my church. The three hours before hand are usually filled with “Do I have to, I’m so sleepy. I don’t wanna.” It takes determination and discipline, but by the time I see their little faces, I’m ready to go.

  22. Susan Macias November 12, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Dear DL-
    You have succinctly put into words what has been rolling in my heart for some time. The American church has been lulled to sleep with the pursuit of entertainment and fun and the avoidance of conviction or discomfort. As I read of historical martyrs or of current ones I am always convicted deeply of our flabbiness. May we rise from our sleep and put down our cotton candy. Thank you for writing this.

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