Words of Worth

An Elephant within an Elephant

August 31, 2012

One of the gifts Cammy and I received while we were in India was a wooden elephant that had a fully formed baby elephant inside.  It is a fascinating carving in that it is cut from one piece of wood—the baby elephant wasn’t gorilla glued into the belly of the adult, but rather it was a continuous part of the carving.  It is also seemed to be a popular carving in India that we began to see at most craft stores, but its symbolism escaped us.

Perhaps when most think of elephants, we think of them as creatures that never forget.  It is true that elephants have good memories.  They rarely forget the places they have been, and they never repeat a path that has proven to be dangerous.  Perhaps we think of them as loyal animals and as caring creatures.  And perhaps we realize that the elephant is very significant in the Indian culture and that even one of the gods of the Hindu is the god Ganesha, whose body has the head of an elephant. However, our wooden gift made me think there was more to the significance of this statue!  So Google to the rescue to the fill in the missing gaps of our understanding.

One of the things that I learned was that Hindus have worshiped the elephants for many centuries, but apparently Western researchers have misinterpreted the focus of this worship.  Hindus are not worshipping the animal, but rather, what is represents—obedience to the dharma or the master’s call.  Along with many other virtues, the elephant is an obedient creature, who when it hears the leader of the group call for a specific task to be done, it immediately answers the master’s call.   The elephant will pass over anything in front of it, destroy any obstacle that comes in its way, and is immune to pain or fatigue, just so it can answer the master’s call. Such obedience says a great deal about both the elephant and the master!

And that made me wonder. It made me wonder if when people looked at me, they would see my Master within me.  When others look at me, do they see Christ within me?

The apostle Paul encapsulates his entire life in Philippians 1:20-21:

“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Paul was simply sharing that his desire was to magnify Christ in his body whether by life or death. He wanted to live as Christ desired him to live, and if he had to die for Christ, then so be it. Either way, Paul wanted to live so people could see Christ in his life.  Paul was speaking of himself in these verses but he was also inspiring every believer to model Christ in this world. No matter what our station or lot in life, we can live in such a way that God is praised and the cause of Jesus is advanced. The lives we touch should know that we are living for Jesus.

I pray that Christ will be clearly seen in this world through our lives.  May we, like the elephant, swiftly trample through physical pain, tiredness, hunger and thirst to obey the Master’s call!  (sv)

 O Jesus Christ, grow Thou in me,
And all things else recede;
My heart be daily nearer Thee,
From sin be daily freed.

Each day let Thy supporting might
My weakness still embrace;
My darkness vanish in Thy light,
Thy life my death efface.

In Thy bright beams which on me fall,
Fade every evil thought;
That I am nothing, Thou art all,
I would be daily taught.

More of Thy glory let me see,
Thou Holy, Wise, and True;
I would Thy living image be,
In joy and sorrow too.

Fill me with gladness from above,
Hold me by strength divine;
Lord, let the glow of Thy great love
Through all my being shine.

Make this poor self grow less and less,
Be Thou my life and aim;
Oh, make me daily through Thy grace
More meet to bear Thy name.
(penned by Johann Lavater)

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