By Rosie Smith
“Come on Aidan! Time to go!” Dad called out as he scooped up two year old Bella and headed out the door.
“I can’t find my binoculars!” Aidan huffed as he rummaged through his drawers. Where had he put them? He could hear the car engine starting up. The whole family were now waiting for him. Again. He already imagined the taunts he would receive from his older brother and sister. But he wouldn’t let them ruin his day. Today they were going to the zoo! So Aidan gave up his search and ran out the door.
His heart pounded with excitement as they pulled into the parking lot. He couldn’t wait to see the tigers and crocodiles in real life! Now that he was 5, maybe he would be big enough to see over the fences. His family piled out of the car; Dad, his older siblings Mia and Daniel, younger sister Bella and Mum with baby Charlotte in her arms.
“Now” said Dad, as they lined up for tickets. “There are a lot of us, and it’s a busy place, so I want you all to promise to stay together, ok?”
“OK Dad” they echoed.
Dad paid for the tickets while Mum perused the map.
“Oo it looks like we might be in time for the tortoise show!” She said.
“Boring!” Daniel groaned.
“Yeah, can we just go straight to the tigers?” Aidan asked.
“I want to feed the kangaroos!” Mia clapped.
“Hang on. Hang on!” Dad boomed. “We are all staying together and everyone will get a turn to see what they want OK?” Seeing the look on their faces he added, “And if I hear any complaining, we can go straight home!”
The children walked in silence as Mum pushed the pram towards the tortoise enclosure.
While they sat waiting for the show to start, Aidan looked over the map, trying to make sense of the tiny diagrams. The presenter began speaking and Aidan craned his neck to see over the tall man sitting in front. His family were pressed in close together amongst the crowd. He was trapped. Aidan felt hot and bored as he waited for the show to finish. When they finally made their way out, Aidan let out a sigh of relief.
“Can we see the tigers now?” He asked hopefully.
“Not quite” Mum said “It’s all the way over the other side of the zoo. We will go there later.”
Slowly they made their way past the different lizards, frogs, and snakes. Aidan felt a little disappointed when he saw the snakes all curled up and unmoving.
He thoughts snakes would have been a bit more exciting than that. Mia was thrilled when they visited the kangaroo paddock. Even Aidan enjoyed feeding them the little white pellets. He also enjoyed watching Dad trying to stop Bella from pulling their tails.
Afterwards it was time for lunch. Aidan’s family joined the throngs of people at the food court. They found a picnic table and Aidan quickly gobbled down his burger. He didn’t want to be late for the crocodile show!
The amphitheatre was huge. Rows upon rows of benches lined the stadium, and in the centre was a big blue pool. Aidan didn’t have any trouble seeing the show this time. Applause echoed off the walls as the presenters ran in, introducing the massive, dinosaur-like creatures. Aidan watched in awe as their big jaws snapped up the meat. He clenched the edge of his seat as a crocodile slowly floated towards the presenter. Was it going to eat him? He thought nervously. But just in time, the presenter jumped up to the safety of the platform, explaining how important it was to stay away from the waters edge in crocodile territory.
Once the show was over, they continued through the zoo. Baby Grace and Bella were starting to get tired and cranky. Mum did a few laps trying to get them to sleep in the pram, but it didn’t work.
“Listen kids” she said, “the girls need a sleep. We might need to call it a day.”
“Aww, already!” Mia cried.
“But we didn’t see the bird show!” Daniel echoed.
“I really want to see the tigers!” Aidan added.
Mum sighed. “I tell you what. We will stay for the bird show, and then leave after that. Mia, Aidan, you already got to see something you wanted so I think that’s fair.” Seeing their disappointment she added, “Be grateful.”
It seemed everyone in the whole zoo was flocking to see the bird show. Aidan’s family squeezed in at the end of a bench, while Aidan and Mia sat on the row behind. As the show began, Aidan glanced at the exit.
Maybe I could quickly go and see the tigers, and come back before the show finishes. He thought to himself. Picturing the map in his mind he was sure it wasn’t that far. While his family were im-mersed in the flying parade of lorikeets, Aidan slipped off the bench and made his escape.
He ran past the wombats, through the bird aviary, and past the koalas, looking eagerly at every sign. I’m sure it was just over here, he thought. He came to a junction in the path and to his relief saw a cat-like figure on the sign, pointing to the left.
“This way!” He muttered to himself. The path stretched on for what seemed like forever. He strained his eyes to see any sign of the tigers, but all he could see were trees.
Looking back anxiously he wondered whether he should go back to his family. His father’s words replayed in his mind: “promise to stay together, ok?”
Aidan thought he could see the end of the road. Surely they must be close! He thought hopefully, and on he went.
Meanwhile, the rest of his family clapped as the birds returned to their keepers, concluding the show. Aidan’s Mum and Dad gathered up their belongings, strapped the young girls in the pram, and shuffled their way out of the exit. It was only when they got outside that they realised: Aidan was missing!
“Where’s Aidan?” Dad asked, scanning the dispersing crowd for any sign of his curly brown head.
“I thought he left to go to the toilet” Mia said. “But that was a while ago…” She bit her lip.
Mum was already pacing toward the toilet block, calling out his name.
“Argh! Aidan!” Dad said angrily. He swallowed the lump in his throat, trying to disguise his fear.
“Ok, you kids stay with your mother and find a ranger. I’ve got my phone so tell her to call me if she finds him before I do” And with that, he ran away calling for Aidan as he went.
Aidan had walked past giraffes and zebras, all the way to the meerkat enclosure. But there was no sight of any tigers. By now he was determined to go back to his family, certain the show would have finished. I am going to be in such big trouble! Aidan thought as he ran up the road he came – or so he thought.
Everything looked different than he remembered. There was now water where there had been trees before. I’m sure this is the way I came, he thought to himself. He stopped as he rounded a corner, tears welling up in his eyes. I’m lost! He looked around to ask someone for help, but the road was empty. Maybe the zoo is closing, Aidan thought miserably, Maybe…my family have gone home without me. Aidan buried his face in his hands and wept.
“Where could he be?” Aidan’s Dad prayed as he ran down the road, “Dear God, please help me find my boy!” Then a thought sprung into his mind, Tigers! He had wanted to see the tigers! He quickly searched for signs and saw the tiger figure pointing to the left. When he got to the junction he hesitated. Which way would he have gone? Aidan’s Dad followed the sign for the tigers, hoping to see that familiar little face. Reaching the tiger enclosure, his heart sunk when he saw no sight of Aidan.
“Have you seen a young boy, curly brown hair?” He asked a tourist nearby. The man shook his head. Without wasting another moment, Aidan’s Dad continued following the bend in the road, calling for Aidan once again.
Aidan lifted his head and looked around. He was sure he had heard something. Then he heard it again. Yes! It sounded like someone shouting. Someone shouting his name. Aidan jumped up and ran towards the sound. “Mum? Dad?!” He cried. Then he saw running towards him with out-stretched arms was his father. Aidan had never felt so relieved, so safe, with his father’s arms wrapped around his little body. “Aidan” He said, with a snuffle in his voice. “Buddy, you scared us.”
“I’m sorry Dad. I’m s-s-sorry!” Aidan sniffled into his chest.
Aidan’s Dad held him tight. “C’mon, we better call your Mum so she can stop worrying.”
Aidan nodded. After the call they walked hand in hand up the zoo path.
Aidan looked up at his father nervously.
“Are you angry at me?” He asked.
His Dad snorted. “You bet I am! But-” he added, his eyes brimming with tears, “I’m more happy that I found you. That hour you were gone felt like an eternity. I never want to lose you again!”
To those who are listening, did you know God loves you even more than Aidan’s Dad loved him? When we wander away from God, and find ourselves lost in sin, our heavenly Father never stops searching for us, calling us to Himself. And when we are found, all of heaven rejoices with Him!