Monday, May 23, 2011

Joe and the Elephant

In 1972, Joe Miller was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Tulsa Junior College. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air.  The elephant seemed distressed, so Joe approached it very carefully.  He got down on one knee, inspected the elephant’s foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Joe worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to Joe, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments.  Joe stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away.  Joe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Thirty years later, Joe was walking through the Tulsa Zoo with his family. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Joe and his family were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Joe, lifted its front foot off the ground, and then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. Remembering the encounter in 1972, Joe could not help wondering if this was the same elephant.  Joe summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Joe's legs and slammed him against the railing killing him instantly. Probably wasn't the same elephant.

I bet you thought you knew how that story was going to end and you were wrong – weren’t you? It never ceases to amaze me how often I am taken by surprise when life doesn’t work out the way I think it should. When I do everything “right” and life still turns out “wrong” – I feel like I’ve been cheated! I get angry and somewhere inside me a voice screams, “It just isn’t fair!” I pray and read my Bible, I give of my time and my talents and still, I struggle. Everything is going along great and then something happens to steal my happiness away once again. Where is God when things go wrong? When the good suffer and the evil prosper? Why does he seem to answer some prayers and not others?

What do we do when the story doesn’t end the way we think it’s should? I don’t have a satisfactory answer for you except to say that there are some things about God that we, as his creation, just aren’t able to comprehend. When I was little, my parents would often say to me, “because I said so” when I asked why. And when I became a parent, I said it to my child too. It’s what parents say when they know their children just aren’t capable of grasping the complexities of why. When I was a child, I hated “because I said so” and as an adult, I’m just as annoyed by it. Even so, I trust God and that means I trust him with what I don’t know as well as with what I do know. As long as one of us knows what’s going on, I’m okay with that. And if the only two options are him or me – I’d rather the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator of the Universe is the one who knows what’s going on and is in control of what is going to be. Wouldn’t you?

About the pictures:
Pittsburgh Zoo (June 2009)

1 comment:

Audrey said...

Great thoughts on your blog today. I like the fact that God knows the "why" of what is going on in my life...when I have no idea. All kinds of "bad" things have turned "good" throughout my lifetime. I keep reminding myself of that when I get worried or anxious. Thanks for sharing.