I dreamt of an elephant. He was held captive by a chain, secured around one leg, and attached to a tent peg. Did that elephant symbolize me? Struggling to walk in the freedom of Christ? Imagine then, when I read the TW Lesson on Forgiveness. The words I’d pondered popped off the page. But first, let me explain that image.
If a mighty elephant can push a tree down and pull heavy logs, why can’t he pull a small peg from the ground to free himself?
Answer: He can escape, but the elephant thinks he is powerless over that chain.
That’s because circus owners, and folks who use elephants as beasts of burden, chain a baby elephant by one leg to a metal pole. He may pull and tug all day, but instead of escaping, the chain cuts into his leg. The effort to free himself becomes pointless. And this mindset—helpless and avoiding physical pain—stays with the elephant so that even as a strong adult, he never attempts to do what he’s capable of doing. Only to say…
How have I been conditioned since childhood to respond in certain ways? Are there previous experiences and voices in my head that cause me to avoid pain or remain stuck? Is there un-forgiveness towards myself or others that keeps me from moving forward? Particularly when it comes to the physical body?
I remember hating my body as a young girl. I wanted to cover myself when I was forced to take a group shower every day during Junior High Girl’s P.E. How could I not compare my skinny body to the more-developed girls around me?
I remember seeing center-fold models in girly magazines when I was a child, and thinking, that’s how I’m supposed to look one day. Then realizing (later in life) that ideal, female figure was an elusive standard I’d never achieve; wondering if that made me any less sexy.
I remember a gal who was raped. She gained a huge amount of weight afterwards. Was she attempting to make herself less attractive to men?
I remember an intelligent, slim teenager who became anorexic because her boyfriend said she wasn’t “perfect enough” and chose someone else.
I remember a man numbing himself with alcohol because he was anxious and lonely.
When I remember these heartaches , I think about that elephant trapped by a chain that cannot hold him. And waits for his master to arrive with the key to release him.
For myself and any Christian who’s enrolled in TW, we’ve been learning about our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. He doesn’t want us chained or yoked to anyone or anything, but Him where there is rest and a more abundant life. But how many people…including myself…remain stuck instead of asking God to turn the master key?
What is this master key? Lesson Ten says, “It is God’s grace, which is extended to all God’s beloved through the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. It is also His forgiveness, which was freely given on the cross at Calvary. It is through forgiveness that our temple is cleansed and the remaining rubble cleared away.”
And yet, that knowledge isn’t a magic pill. I’ve had to take action, and ask the Lord if there is anything in my upbringing and past that needs to be unearthed and then released in order to move forward and experience His peace and joy.
Do I need to forgive my own sin and imperfections? Forgive others who may have intentionally—or not—treated me poorly or trained me to view myself in a shameful way? Perhaps I need to talk to God about something He allowed in my life that I didn’t “feel” I deserved. Or an expectation He didn’t meet. Back in the day, I had to confess my anger towards God when I suffered from three miscarriages.
The power of the Holy Spirit enables us to leave the past behind and walk forward in faith, by God’s grace. However, if I….
- Refuse to believe I’m forgiven and free in Christ,
- Think it’s impossible (or refuse) to forgive those who have wronged me,
- Turn to food to escape the past instead of Christ,
Then I’ll live my life hobbled like that seemingly helpless elephant chained to the tent peg.
And if that image saddens me, imagine how God feels when He sees His children stuck in one place when they could be romping like calves.