Monday, 4 March 2013

The Elephant and the Stake

There is a parable about a tourist who saw large elephants tethered to a small stake.

The tourist asked the trainer "How can you keep such a large elephant tied to such a small stake?"

He said "When the elephants are small, they try to pull out the stake and they fail. When they grow large, they never try to pull out the stake again."

Elephants never forget. And as a baby elephant grows older, she never forgets the failure to free herself as a baby. She remembers the pain. And so, even when she grows up she thinks it’s impossible to become free, and so doesn’t  even try!

The problem is that many humans are also affected by some such "mental constraints." They have emotional barriers that stop them from living the life that God intended.


I must be very careful not to judge or become overly critical of individuals who have allowed their past to not only influence but dominate their present and adversely affect their future.  It saddens me to see so many people who are bound to a stake from their past, albeit a big stake.  Often when in a counseling session the person unveils a devastating tale, one that has had a significant impact on how they have lived their lives.  Much of my first wife’s unhappiness was derived from her perception of never being good enough, never measuring up to the standards set by her older sister.  Just prior to her going home to be with the Lord I think she was beginning to come to grips with the fact that her sister wasn’t the bar by which she should measure herself.

To an extent when we are dominated by memories of our past it manifests itself as a form of self-centeredness.  The thoughts of years gone by effect the way we relate to people in the here and now, not to mention how negative thoughts can impinge on our concept of God.

In The Meaning of Marriage, Pastor Tim Keller writes, “Self-centeredness is a natural condition and not the product of mistreatment.”  Our preoccupation with ourselves, regardless of how horrific our past, does not give us a license to inflict our prior pain on our current relationships.

Unlike the grown elephant, with the help of God we can break free of the shackles of the past and choose to live in the light instead of the darkness.

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