“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
For several years, an elephant named Elliot lived in the stairwell of our house. At 9 feet tall, the stairwell was the only place Elliot fit, his long trunk draped over the bannister and his big ears touching the ceiling. The kids would pat his trunk as they raced down the steps and before they left for school they would remind me to “feed the elephant.”
Elliot wasn’t a flesh and blood creature, of course, but made of cardboard and poster paint, a creation from my son Dennis’ imagination the year our Vacation Bible School had a Jumanji theme. Other animals from my son’s crafty hands went home with delighted students, but Elliot came to live with us.
The April of Dennis’ junior year in high school, Elliot took a trip. Dennis and I folded him into the trunk of my Grenada and carried him into the University of the Arts admissions office as part of my son’s portfolio. The director was so impressed with Elliot that not only was Dennis offered a place in the art school, Elliot was invited to live in the lobby.
We missed Elliot for a while, but he wasn’t the last elephant to live with us.
I’ll bet a few elephants live with you, too.
Have you ever lost a job? Worried about a teenager? Been unable to pay a bill? Spent the night in an emergency room? Wondered how you would feed your kids?
Elephants. All of them. And not nearly as lovable as Elliot.
But we as Christians do not need to fear the elephants in our lives. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Be not dismayed.”
The Israelites, led out of Egypt by God, encountered a few elephants of their own along the way to the Promised Land. They were chased by Pharaoh and his chariots, ran out of water on the journey, grumbled about the manna God provided, and in general feared the unknown. They’d come to rely on Moses, but as they stood at the very brink of the Jordan River, Moses announced that he would not be going to Canaan with them.
Moses reminded them that God had always been with them on their journey and always would be. We wonder how to deal with our own elephants, but God is always ahead of them. Always.
On Sunday, Pastor Aaron provided us with his Rules for the Road. I’d like to give you some tips for dealing with elephants.
- Approach your elephant from the right side and with the correct attitude. Ignoring it by throwing the bills under the bed will not help.
- Be prepared to get wet. Elephants often walk through water and mud. It can get messy but hang on. God will lead you.
- Sit up straight and maintain your balance. Running off screaming will only frighten the elephant and make things worse. Move in time with the elephant and with God. God will go before you, not the other way around.
Not all the elephants in my life have fit neatly into my stairwell. Some have outstayed their welcome. But real elephants, well-known for their excellent memories, have another unique ability seldom extolled in Western literature.
They always obey the voice of the Master.