I had breakfast with a friend who told me that working in the church is like “moving the elephant.” He explained that moving an elephant can be quite difficult, especially if the elephant doesn’t want to be moved. You can get in front and pull on the trunk or you can stand behind and push with all your might. Eventually if you pull hard enough or push long enough, you’ll probably get the elephant to move. But even then, the elephant will take one step and then sit back down, and you’ve got to start pulling and pushing all over again.
Change is hard for all of us because, like the elephant, once we find a comfortable seat, we prefer to stay there for awhile. And even if someone is pulling us from the front or pushing us from the back, we usually prefer to stay right where we are. And if we’re forced to move, we take the tiniest step possible, and then we sit back down.
Jesus said, “Consider the lily,” but he could have said, “Consider the elephant,” and that would be true too. Elephants are very smart animals that can be trained to do all sorts of things. They are also large beasts and generally like to have their own way. In some parts of the world, elephants have been trained to accomplish great feats. The Asian elephant was used in battle as early as 1100 B.C. Alexander the Great defeated an army that featured 200 “war elephants.” He captured 80 elephants and incorporated these “ancient battle tanks” into his own army. Hannibal is remembered mostly for leading his army of elephants across the Alps, although history says he didn’t use the elephants very much in battle. King Pyrrhus of Epirus defeated the Romans at the battle of Heraclea (280 B.C.), primarily because of the 26 Indian elephants in his command. The Asian elephant was a formidable beast, weighing up to five tons (10,000 pounds). The elephants were sometimes deployed with their head and ears painted red, white or yellow to appear more ferocious.
In dealing with people it’s easy to be discouraged because sometimes we push and pull for weeks and months and years with no apparent result. Then at last there is movement, and we think things are going to change, but they take one step and sit back down again. Verily, there is a little elephant in all of us, and a lot of elephant in some of us. Be not dismayed. When the elephant finally decides to move, he is a sight to behold, and no one can stand against him.