I am a father of four. My oldest is 13 and my youngest is now nearly 5. Over the last 13 years I have had many wonderful experiences as a father. I have also had many terrifying moments that made me sick to my stomach and certainly shaved a number of years off of my life. When my oldest was not yet 3 she was quite the “welcome to parenthood” manual. About the only thing she did perfectly was sleep at night. I still marvel at how soon and how well she slept through the night as a baby (especially when our youngest was nearly 3 before she started sleeping through the night. Perhaps the most terrifying moment of my parenthood came during the county fair when we were living in SE Missouri. The cul-de-sac to our home was directly across from the fair grounds. Because there was NO parking for the grounds, the car would park all up and down the road. Making a left off of our road was impossible. One day, while the fair was going on, I needed to make that left. So, what I had to do was make a right, find somewhere to turn around and then go back to where I really wanted to go. As I did this, I saw my daughter running out into the street towards oncoming traffic. I quickly spun my car to block ALL traffic jumped out of the car, and grabbed her before she was hit. You might be thinking, what kind of parent fails to watch their child when all of that is going on. I locked the deadbolt before I left because I knew our daughter had a habit of trying to go outside without supervision. My wife was in the restroom. My daughter had pulled up a chair to the door and unlocked the door on her own. We were good parents. We were attentive parents and the worst nearly happened because our daughter was a good climber, had freakishly strong hands, and was determined to give her daddy one more hug before he left for work.
So, when that child fell into that gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo my heart really did reach out to them. I understand how quickly a child can flat disappear from your eyesight. I understand that 20 seconds is often 19 seconds too long. (Like when #4 grabbed the knife while I turned to dump the vegetables into the pan after chopping them). And yet, the comments made in social media about these parents just flat floored me. I honestly read a comment made by one person that said it would have taught the parents a valuable lesson if the zoo had done nothing and let their son die. I read another that claimed the life of the gorilla was of far greater value than the life of that 4 year old boy. The gorilla is a critically endangered species, and there are plenty of little boys running around. That last one choked me up. I couldn’t believe I read that. As a father of four, as a father that has lost a child due to miscarriage, I cannot fathom thinking that because I have four other children or that because there are plenty of children in the world that it is okay for me to just give up one of those children for the sake of an animal.
Paul warned of those that were like this. He said that they did not have natural affection (Rom. 1:31). The English Standard Version translates it a little more harshly. He says that they are heartless. That sums up exactly how I felt about those that lashed out at the parents of this child and the zoo officials who make a quick decision which saved the life of that little boy. They are heartless. It is heartless to care more for an animal that for a child. It is heartless to blame the parents for wait took mere seconds to transpire. It is heartless to blame the zoo officials for thinking that they didn’t try to save the gorilla. The parents, the zoo keepers, they will have to live with the memory of this tragedy all the days of their lives. It will haunt them. It will change how the look at life, God’s creation, their parenting, the children, etc. Rather than lash out at them, we ought to be praying for them.