I heard about this study on self-perception, or at least, the study says that was the original point of it, how does our self-perception match up with what is really happening. So these researchers went around asking people what kind of animal they would be, trying to find out what our choices said about us.

An unlooked-for pattern emerged. The young ones? They picked fantasy characters, wild animals, weird and wonderful animals. “I want to be a Basilisk!” said one sweet eight year old girl, “because then I could live for millions of years!” And the old ones, they picked a nice dog. And so the study turned into a broader discussion on how, as we get older, we become tame.

As we age, we become domesticated, even in our fantasies, it seems.

Me? I’ve always been domesticated. Even as a kid, when that question came up in school projects, I picked a good old house cat. I love the independence of cats, the hold-their-own-counsel of cats, and I’ve always been a prowler, but yes, I crave predictable, stable, and three-good-meals, a patch of sun, lots of space, a slower pace. (I would like to have a cat, but Brian is of the opinion we have enough eating, pooping, and destroying things going on in our household at present.)

As I get older, it seems that God has a different invitation, a reverse of sorts, perhaps. Instead of the wild becoming tame, as I age, I’m the tame becoming wild, or at least wilder. I’m moving from my safe and predictable desires for a quiet and comfortable life to a heart-cry for mercy and love and justice, to a fearlessness, to a boldness. I’m moving from my highest priority on my own comfort and safety to a willingness to be inconvenienced. It hurts and it’s uncomfortable and it’s holy.

I can sense God’s pleasure when I’m scared to death, and I do it anyway. I can sense the movement of the Holy Spirit in conquering my fears, in leaving the boardroom table debates or tight theological boxes and labels and rules, in following the wind, right outside to the fresh air, a new cathedral, perhaps.

I’m practicing the ways of Jesus, and I’m not sure what will come next, I can’t plan for these things, I know that, but I can keep waking up, every day. Awake, awake, my soul. I’m learning to watch what the Spirit is already doing in the world, in the lives of those around me, and I’m learning to participate, join in, jump in, as the waters move. Sometimes that means enforcing boundaries and wisdom, making time for that patch of sun and solitude, for quiet and daily rhythms, for what matters most to me, and other times it means a willingness to be inconvenienced, to be bold and fearless, Kipling’s cat perhaps, waving my wild tail where it pleases me.

Now I’m curious: what type of animal would you be?

Also linked up with the SheLoves synchroblog for September on the theme of Awake.


In which I'm practicing
In which {love looks like} the room to change
thank you for sharing...
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  • the Blah Blah Blahger

    I want to be like you when I grow up!

  • AbbyKNorman

    I have always ALWAYS picked a dog. I am a pack animal. I like to know who is in charge. I guard the things and people I love. I am loyal and I wear my emotions on the outside as though I have a tail. I am happiest when I am secure that my master thinks I am doing a good job. Your post reminds me that dogs are chosen as rescue animals, police helpers, used to sniff out survivors. Dogs are used to sniff out cancer. They do all kinds of things that amaze people, and we don’t know how. They are just ordinary animals after all.

    • I’ve never wanted to be a dog, but I like what you said about them being ordinary but extraordinary. God gave them an extraordinary nose, and they’re just doing what comes naturally. But when they do, the results are amazing and such a blessing.

  • Great post. I have always wanted to be a dolphin – intelligent, fun, imagintive, always smiling, totally free spirits who can go wherever they like in beautiful blue seas and can overcome the big predators who get in their way. I love them. Maybe I should think about why this is, and what it says about me. To be honest, I feel like there’s a wild free spirit deep inside of me waiting to get out – I’ve always been the good-two shoes, do the right thing person. But I’m not sure this is who I really am. Hmmmm….

    • James, me too — the wild one, straight laced and proper. But lately I’ve been seeing cracks in the dam. It’s a little scary because the force behind it is unknown and uncontrollable. But it has to happen. And in a way, I’m thinking, it’s about time.

      • That metaphor is uncanny – someone prayed for me a while back and gave me the dam metaphor for my life, about God waiting to release something uncontrollable (by me) and overwhelm me. Now thinking more and more this is about being released into something amazing and unknown, maybe uncontrollable. Scary – but good scary.

        • Awesome! And good point about the it being uncontrollable by us, (but not God). That is what I meant, of course.

          • Oh yes – that’s the scariest part of it. Not even sure what it even looks like for me yet either…

  • Lindsay

    Oh Sarah, this feels like so much of what God is doing in me too, and you say it so beautifully as always. Tame becoming wild..love it.

  • One personality profile says I’m at best a worker bee, at worst a yapping chihuahua – and I guess that about covers it all, but in the best situations I can mimic a flitting butterfuly (for brief periods of time, and before returning to my room or somewhere between the covers of a book to hide for a good while). But lately I’m identifying with the beautiful garden spiders my kids and I have been visting in our neighbor’s yard.

  • I once heard that as women get older, they tend to become more liberal/”wild”, whereas as men get older, they tend to become more conservative/”domesticated”. As for me, I think of myself as a Siberian tiger due to my love of Russia (and as a Russian-language speaker), its rarity and solitude in the Siberian winters, and for its fierceness in appropriate times. Plus, they are just plain elegant and I want to be like that!

    • Oh, that’s a great point – men vs. women in this discussion.

  • Love.

  • Arianne Segerman

    Love this. <3

  • I’ve been writing (privately, for now) much about this same notion for awhile now. Tame becoming wild… and isn’t that what Christ does when our hearts are wrecked for Him? Unleashes the wild love and wild grace and wild understanding of what once only looked safe and sane. Beautiful piece as always, Sarah. You really are one of my heroes.

    • Can’t wait to read what you come up with on that, Cara. Let me know when you publish it.

  • Nicole Gilbertson Wilke

    Probably a cheetah. It would have to be something African, work hard, and be fast. Fiercely protective, camouflage hiding when it decides, impatient, passionate.

  • Dolphins always seemed to have it pretty sweet. Swimming in the ocean and able to fend of sharks works for me!

    Your word “fearless” comes to mind. I often stop myself from taking creative risks because of fear, and that is one thing that most children don’t have when they approach creative tasks.

    • Yes! I see that in my tinies and yearn for that kind of confidence.

    • dolphins are a great mix of clever, thoughtful, and playful. Ed, you are so a dolphin. 🙂

  • I’m the same. Here’s something interesting – as a freshman in college, I said I would be an elephant. Although it was because “elephants remember” – I see this now as feeling like the proverbial elephant in the room. I’ve also answered “golden retriever” (because they’re loyal) and I think at one point I said bird because I couldn’t imagine the concept of flying away. Now? This past week we discussed what our patronus’ would be (a similar question) and I immediately said, “lion!” I’m with you. Tame becoming wild.

  • A lioness, about to pounce. Straight but that’s what I feel like.

  • I love getting more wild with age! I’m a domestic by nature, but the Gospel (and Isaiah) radicalize me with each encounter. Love connecting awake and wild… because the converse (tame and asleep) might be true.

  • Brittaney

    A monkey, definitely a monkey. I would love to leap through the air and fly by my tail. Actually, speaking of flying maybe I should be a bird. I love anything that lets the wind blow through my hair, that makes me feel like I’m flying. Can I be a hybrid, like a bird-monkey?

  • josie O.

    “I can sense God’s pleasure when I’m scared to death, and I do it anyway.” Yes. I want this.

  • i would be a bird. i love the way they fly through the air together, so free, yet they all seem to know the choreography.

  • FriedOkra

    Like you, I’ve always said house cat, since I was very little. As I get older, I sometimes think Lioness. Fierce and protective, but still nappy.

    • I’ve been meaning to read Lisa Bevere’s book about that called “Lioness Arising.”

      • Handsfull

        That is a good book 🙂

    • “Fierce and protective, but still nappy.” Haha, yes — ‘love that!

  • A mermaid–without question. I’ve been one since I was five.

    • Great answer. Love that.

    • You’ve probably always “been one”…but when you were five you first realized it. 🙂

  • JennaDeWitt

    So I wasn’t going to participate in the synchroblog, but your question got me thinking and soon a comment turned into a blog post…

    Thanks for the spark (:

  • I would be a bird, a red bird of some sort, flying high and free and then hiding in the trees to watch people below.

  • This is awesome, and in many way describes me. What to be? No contest. Of animals you’d have heard of, a dragon. A long-tailed, bat winged, clawed, horned, fire-breathing dragon.

  • There’s just no question.
    I’m a fox. wild. afraid.
    Maybe that’s why I love “The Little Prince” so much…there’s the bit about taming and ritual and I weep every single time I read it. Many tears from a deep place. Here’s the quote that gets me: http://wp.me/p1g2iA-2yl

  • I’ve loved rhinos since my college days. Such solid creatures, nothing ruffles them, they’re tough & fearless, and they love soaking in the mud!

  • A magical unicorn in a magical kingdom.

    • You are the best, Pam Hogeweide.

  • I think a phoenix – I have felt a wonderful rebirth in the second half of life. And yes more wild, risk taking and optimistiic.

    • I love the image of the phoenix …

  • Love the sentiments of this. Growing up I was very domesticated, reading lots. Very much a loner. Thus, I’ve always been a cat person, and the older I get the more I love the jungle cats: lions, cheetahs, tigers. So I have a hard time choosing between African lion and Siberian tiger.

  • Dana

    An owl, I’d be an owl. It would be one of those large, crazy-looking varieties with the feather tufts coming off their crested brows. Just to let folks know, I am something to be reckoned with, but I will mostly sit here collecting and distributing wisdom as needed.

    • Dana, as an often quiet sideliner, I appreciate that combination — sort of fiercely subdued.

      • Dana


  • Handsfull

    I used to be a chameleon – just wanting to blend into the wallpaper and not be noticed. However, things have changed! Feeling a whole lot more like a tigress these days 🙂

  • A butterfly … like the Giant Swallowtail over there on my hand ,,, or like the dozen or so others that have landed and chatted for awhile on my finger, my shoulder, or my bike. They are a symbol of freedom, rebirth, renewal, and transformation. They symbolize beauty and grace. Delicate. Tender. Gentle.

    They are one of the empaths of the animal world. They get skittish when we are. They are fearful when they sense an ulterior motive. And they settle down and trust when they sense we would never do them any harm.

    And, of course, they are totally A.D.D. “Oh Look! There’s a purple flower!” and half way through that snack they are distracted to a different one. No plan. No destination. They are all about the journey.

  • Sarah, I might’ve been a cat for similar reasons. But right now I seem to be in process — discovery, rediscovery, transformation — I’m not sure which.

    You’ve described this awakening so well. I don’t know where the journey leads. What’s odd is, the further I venture into the unknown, the more sure and certain it seems.

    Thanks for writing this.

  • I am a wild cat–tiger some days, lioness another. #roar

  • I’d pick a lion. Better to be at the top of the food chain then the bottom, eh?