Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Buffalo, an Elephant, and a Tiger

I used to live in Denver. Sometimes, when I felt I needed to pray or meditate, I would drive up to this area in south Denver called Daniel’s park. From here you could see this whole panorama of the foothills and the Colorado front range. There was a ranch up there too that was right next to the gravel road I would use. On this ranch was one American Buffalo. Here was a representative of the largest land mammal species in North America. A species whose numbers once numbered in the millions. The rancher kept this buffalo in a small pen surrounded by nothing more than chicken wire. The same thing that keeps dogs out of tomato plants is holding an animal that weighs 2200 pounds.

I have never trained an elephant. In fact, I’ve only seen an elephant a few times in my life. Apparently, the way you train one is you chain it to a tree, or a post, or something really big. Then, over time, you can take the tree away and replace it with a tiny stake, something this giant animal would easily be able to pull out. It won’t matter by that point.

One of my favorite bands is called mewithoutyou. On their most recent album, they tell a story about the wreck of a circus train. This train was full of animals and went off the tracks on a cold and snowy night. Train car doors burst open and an elephant escaped. In fact, all the animals escaped that night, except one. The tiger had been in his cage for so long that when the train crashed and his cage was broken away, he just kept pacing back and forth. The tiger was convinced he was still unable to escape, even though there was nothing keeping him caged, but himself.

A chicken wire fence stops a buffalo.

A tiny stake can keep an elephant at bay.

A tiger is trapped in a cage that doesn’t exist.

Scientists call this “Learned Helplessness.” Animals, and people, can be conditioned to believe they simply can’t succeed.

This is one of the Devil’s best games: convince people that not only are they inadequate, but the all-loving God of the universe’s unconditional affection doesn’t apply to them. Let’s deal with these lies. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and told them:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

A new creature! In other verses Paul refers to the old self, the old man, the child of wrath, but says that man is dead--crucified with Christ. Now you are new. You aren’t tied down by those sins or decisions of the past, you just think you are. Which leads us to another story. A long time ago, God had prophets that He would use to warn people they were moving too far away from God. He used these prophets to point His children back to Himself. One prophet was named Elisha. Once, the people from a nation named Aram were moving to attack Israel. Elisha knew this, and He knew God had told him he would be protected. His servant was a little less sure.

Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?"16 So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."17 Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

We need our eyes opened. We need to see the fences around us for what they are--meaningless, easily trampled by our new creation legs. You’ve heard a lot about your identity, and that is good. What you need to remember is that you are Free, You have been Fulfilled, and you are now a Force for good. God has already torn down the chicken wire fence, He has already broken your chains, and he has ripped open your cage. There is nothing left for you to do to become better. You are fulfilled. You are now called to do good, to spread this freedom and fulfillment everywhere you go.
Whenever you break through those boundaries, you’ve let God take that darkness from your past and change it into light. 

The psalmist says “He has turned my weeping into whirling dancing, he has taken my sackcloth and clothed me with new clothes.” Those things become new, they become trinkets on your shelf--trophies representing the Victory in your life. Let us cast aside all the shackles in our mind and see ourselves as the free, fulfilled, force for good that God calls us to be.  


  1. LOVE this, Drew! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for reading Molly. I'd love to hear a counselor's perspective on this.


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About Drew

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A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.