Friday, March 27, 2009

Learning to walk

It's possible I've written about this before, but that's the way it goes.  E walked in this afternoon after work and said, "Back in the elephant phase, huh?"  It's true, I'm all about elephants right now.  I've made this journey before, reading everything I could about them, but I just found the BBC documentary about a family group of elephants in Amboseli National Park that I first saw many years ago when we lived in Sequim.  That movie made me fall in love with these giant creatures and what they can teach us about ourselves.  Watching Echo, the matriarch and her family yesterday, was like being reaquainted with a beloved friend.  The documentary begins with the birth of Echo's calf, Eli, a male calf so large he was cramped for the 22 months in her womb.  He was born completely unable to stand on his feet, but could only stand with them bent under, like a human might stand on his ankles, with the foot bent completely backwards.  Generally such a disability is precursor to death, because the calf cannot stand or walk, but this little guy (which is a very strange thing to call a 300 pound baby) was determined to walk, and his mother and older sister refused to leave him.  The rest of the family moved off after they'd helped Echo birth the baby, but she waited, wrapped her trunk around him, and gently helped him up, his older sister also assisting.  They absolutely insisted that he get up, that he move.  They weren't about to leave him to flounder on his own. It was a long slow trip catching up to the rest of the family, with Eli trudging along on the tops of his large feet.  But eventually, on the third day of his life, after trying and falling repeatedly, Eli managed to get his legs to stiffen and hold him upright.

This scene is very evocative to me.  The gentle help of the family with the birth, the patience of Mama and big sister with the little disabled brother, the diligence in his working to be a full member of the family--all of this speaks volumes to me about living in the body of Christ.  We aren't always patient with those who are weaker members, those who are even slow and disabled in their faith.  But we could be.  Should be.  Paul tells us to help our weaker brother (and sister), to encourage each other.  Often we're so busy criticizing the strugglers, those different than ourselves, that we never consider that our judgment leaves them for dead.  We don't like people who are different than ourselves, who look different, move differently, are a little crippled--from our point of view.

We can learn much from this insistent loving of the elephants, from the patient endurance of Eli. His working and working until he could stand, and his mother's waiting and encouraging him to do so.  That's the point.  We all have to work together to work out our salvation.  We're the church--the whole community of faith, the whole family of God.  Not a one of us can learn to walk by ourselves.  Why, without those older and more experienced, we'd never take a healthy step, I think.  We flail and flounder and fall flat by ourselves.  I do, anyway.  Without brothers and sisters to encourage me, I'm Eli, alone in the savannah, trying to walk on my ankles.  So I thank God today for all those who have stretched out their trunks to me, their steady arms around me, helping me to stand upright and walk--walk in a manner worthy of Christ.

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