Posted: 7/24/20 at 9:00am. Column by Ed Jordan.
This week I spent some time in a doctor’s office, awaiting the results of a test. The room had a beautiful artwork which depicted a giant elephant, with the typical big eyes, big ears, thick skin, and curved tusks. Nestled between his front legs was a beautiful baby elephant, with its eyes looking up at the parent’s face. The parent’s trunk seemed to stroke the neck of the child. It was such a sweet, calming, and comforting presentation.
As I reflected upon the picture, I thought of how the elephants are not in panic over a virus, nor are they experiencing anxiety over the results of a medical test. The parent elephant was calm and majestic, unthreatened by anything, modeling courage and composure to its child. The baby elephant was calm, resting under the protective eye and care of its majestic parent.
The art brought a calmness to my spirit. I thought of what a contrast with what we see every day in the body language of people anxiously held captive in fear, with eyes darting to and fro for signs of danger. The little elephant had no need to fear when under the care and protection of his powerful parent. He wasn’t anxious; he was in love with his majestic protector. The little guy was protected in the shadow of a parent, perhaps 30 times larger and more powerful than itself. There was nothing but calm, peaceful love and adoration in the baby’s gaze.
As I thought about the calm of the baby elephant, some of the teachings of Jesus came into my mind. He was sending his disciples (and later sending us) out into a dangerous, unpredictable world. Power brokers were already plotting Jesus’ death, and he knew they would go after the disciples later.
Jesus also knew some of their anxieties and fears. In Matthew 6:25-26 (CSB) Jesus spoke to them and to us saying: “… Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?”
Jesus tells us to stop worrying about all these things, saying that life consists of much more than the things we worry about. He reminds us that God takes care of the birds, and the elephants, and that you are more important to him than any of those.
Wow! Majestic God, who is not threatened by anything we face, stands over us and around us. He doesn’t panic, fret, or wring his hands. Jesus came and faced all the things we face, and yet never worried about any of them.
Jesus died a brutal death so that he could remove the sin barrier that separates us from God, and so that we would not be bound by fear anymore (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). He raised from the dead to prove that there is more to life than this short physical existence that we cling to so tenaciously. Jesus told us over and over, “Fear not” for I am with you, and will never leave you or abandon you (cf. Hebrews 13:5).
Even now, like that little elephant’s parent, Jesus stands above us and around us. He radiates inconceivable power, and extends his protective love and care to us. Remember the one event that brought Jesus to tears? You can read it in Matthew 23:37 (CBS): “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
Powerful, loving, majestic Jesus stood among them, over and over again inviting them to turn to him and live in his presence. But what brought him to tears was that people were not willing to turn to him, to place their lives, and destiny, into his care by living in his majestic presence and peace. I wonder if we still bring Jesus to tears today?
What is the elephant in the room that we are unwilling to recognize? Is it that we really rely on something other than God to be the sustainer and savior of our lives? Is that why we might not be calm and fearless? Can you hourly lean into Jesus, with his arms outstretched in tenderness and power, basking in his love and majesty, and thereby dismiss your fears? Let go of your fear and nestle into his protective care!