The Elephant and The King

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Almost every thanksgiving I hear the story of the elephant and the king. The person who tells this story tells it because they want to part some of their experience with us. This story is designed to help understand a single item may be viewed in different ways. This is how the story goes.

One day, the King decided he wanted to see what would happen if 5 blind people felt an elephant, how would they describe the elephant. The king could see the elephant and knew what it was, but the blind people only had their touch to work with. The first blind man feels the stomach of the elephant and says it’s a strong wall. Another feels the leg and says it’s a giant. Another feels the trunk and says it’s a floating snake. Another feels the tail and it’s a toy. The final feels the ear and says it’s a fan.

This is an amazing story when everyone is on equal ground. We are all working on a project together and each of us has an understanding of the project from a different angle. To resolve the issue, communication is key. This is a great story in that retrospect. I love this story when it comes to the medical field because a single doctor might have a good vision of the issue but not all that is needed. Give an example, my disk herniated to the left. Put pressure on my lower spine. The doctor knew surgery was needed. He also knew insurance would fight him because he communicated with the accountant. So, he sent me to the physical therapists. They came at the problem at a different angle which strengthened the muscles. This helped with recovery later. Then the pain management. This helped with dealing with the nerve damage. Then finally back to the surgery. This process took 19 months of pain. I finally got the surgery and now I am using the knowledge I gained from the physical therapy each day. I am using the pain management tricks I learned while at pain management while the nerve root heals. A single doctor couldn’t do it all because He wasn’t the king.

This story fails when you place yourself in the king’s position. You say you can see the full picture. To be in the king’s position is a position of ignorance. It’s rare to be rightfully in the king’s position in this case. Even in recovery, going through your personal recovery is only a part of the elephant of recovery.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12

There is one thing about this story that irks me. When someone applies it to religion. When someone says that all religions are right because each religion is a blind man feeling the elephant of religion. They are placing themselves in the king’s position. When looking at God from the king’s position, you are God. This is a common western theology that you are your own God. The problem with this theology is, we are humans. We are imperfect creatures. When it comes to recovery, having this viewpoint, you are promising yourself to fail. The God of all creation is yourself, and you are knees deep in your hurts, habits, and hangups. How can a perfect God be injecting? How can a perfect God be overeating? How can a perfect God be thinking about suicide? A perfect God can’t. You are not God.

What’s even crazier is we try to treat our lives like this. We see ourselves like we see the elephant. At times we see the hardships. Sometimes we see the joys. However, we can’t see the full picture. We can’t peer through the veil of time yet. Often times we claim to know ourselves, but we don’t. We only know what we have experienced. 5 years ago, I didn’t know I would be talking people down from suicide. 5 years ago, I didn’t know I would be facing suicide myself. God knew, and thus, I’m not God. Instead, I try to put my trust in Him because that is the only way I am going to have freedom.

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18 NIV

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