For those of you who have never been to my house - the elephant I am speaking of is a actually a jungle gym. It followed my Wonderful Husband home one day, and of course he promptly asked "Can I keep him?!?" One look at that steel trunk and how could I say no?
The kids love him - oh his name is "Racky" for those of you whom I know will ask. Taylor named him. But enough explanation - on to what he has taught me in his time at my house:
When you climb the Elephant there is a rule. No one helps you unless your life is in danger. You must climb alone. Mom and dad are close in case you need help (look carefully in the picture and you will see dad hiding behind Taylor) but you MUST climb without help. Ayla actually just really started climbing this last weekend. She went from barely being able to get past the bottom rung to making it all the way to the top all on her own. (Could we expect anything less from her?) Taylor had trouble following the first rule of the elephant when it came to her sister. She wanted to hold her hand, help her to learn to climb - but we as the adults knew that if a three year old weighing in at barely 30 lbs (if that) helps her one year old sister (coming in at close to 25lbs) then most likely both will fall. It felt to be a spiritual lesson. Don't we want to hold the hand of those around us? Be it a "seasoned" mother giving parenting advice to one just starting out, an experienced home-owner telling one who is looking what they "HAVE" to do/say/find; a Christian guiding one they believe to be following the wrong path, I could go on and I am sure you could too. But no matter how well intentioned the "help" may be, without a parent (or God) close by, the chance of hurt can actually increase.
Now please understand, I know it is not always this way. For instance, Ayla does not want help on the Elephant at all. From a sister, from a parent, from anyone! She thinks she can do it all herself, she is wrong. Yes, she is pretty good at climbing up - but she is incapable of getting down safely on her own. Just as important a lesson as doing things ourselves when we need too, and maybe even harder to accept, is taking help when we truly need it. We all have been there. Be it help from God, from a parent, from a friend or trusted spiritual leader, we all need it on a pretty regular basis and we must learn to swallow our pride (or the urge to kick and scream "I want to do it ALL BY MYSELF") and take the hand that is offered. Trust me, it hurts a lot more if we refuse the hand, fall and have to be caught (hitting one or two bars on the way down) and we will most likely come out of that will bumps and bruises.
Now, Taylor is very good at climbing the elephant. We don't even have to be close by anymore. She still falls every so often, but from the beginning Daddy would remind her to always keep three points of contact and she is very good at that. So if she falls, she catches herself pretty quick and has not gotten hurt in a long time. From this I have learned that in life we need to be holding on tight - to God, to family and friends, to our our "lives" and to our unique selves...but there is one other thing. One very important thing. You see, I listed four things. We have two hands, two feet. Those are our points of contact. If all four are in constant contact - we will not ever go anywhere. We may be safe, we may feel secure and sturdy...but we wont ever move and because of that, I will argue that God cannot use us. I will look at the four things again; God must remain steady. Without Him there is nothing at all. But the three other things, friends and family, self, the things we consider "our lives" - sometimes we have to let go for a moment. It is hard, sometimes physically painful to give up that security, that control. But in order to move, to ultimately be where God wants us to be, we have to be willing to let go. When we need him, the hand will be there waiting for us to hold onto.
Climbing the elephant is fun, it is dangerous, it takes skill and energy. Because of these rules my kids have gotten balance, security, self-control and strength. I love the elephant as a backyard toy (and not just because they are tired when they are done!) but because it also gives me peace as a parent. I have seen them climb, stood next to them to make sure they are steady. This means when we are at the park I can give them a little more freedom knowing they will catch themselves if they fall. Knowing that they have the skills they need for safety, for fun and for life (as a toddler that is). Once we show these skills in life (balance, security, self-control, strength) then we are also ready for a little more freedom. But funny this freedom - we now know the risks we don't need to take. The fear is gone for that which we are supposed to do, but we also recognize when something is beyond our skill and is meant for another. We can set our own boundaries, we can lead and others can safely follow because we have the strength to catch those that follow us if they fall - as long as we still are holding on with our God hand.
Oooh I smell a poopy one. Dirty diaper here I come to destroy you!! Come on, I have to find adventure somewhere right? If I have a chance I may write more later - never got beyond my theological rambling today. So until next time, heed the lessons of the elephant - after all, elephants never forget!