Elephants and Lies
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14)
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11, italics mine)
The average African Bush Elephant is over 3 meters tall, about 6 meters long, and weighs about 6000kg. They are fierce, intelligent, and practically impossible to push around. As a human who is significantly smaller and less massive, there is no way to force it to do something it does not want to do. So how do you train an elephant? How do you get it to go where you want it to and act how you want it to?
Back when such practices were acceptable, elephants trained to perform in a circus were chosen from birth. In order to keep them from running away, they would be tied to a pole by a thick rope. At first, the elephants would struggle against the rope, but as they were young and small, they could not break free. Over time, they came to realize the futility of struggling against the rope and accepted the restraint. Even when they grew larger and stronger, they retained the belief that the rope still bound them and they could not get away from it. Even into adulthood, all a trainer would have to do is loop the rope around their head, not even fastening the other end to a pole, and the elephant would accept the bond and not run away. As an adult, the elephant is easily strong enough to snap the rope with one significant tug, but because it believes that the rope holds it fast, the elephant is bound by it.
We act like these elephants all the time.
We, as human beings, were designed to live free, to be creative and productive, and to explore our potential. Each person was created for a good purpose. Each person is of incomparable value and worth because of who we are. This is our identity, who we are made to be. But we don't live like it.
If we're honest with ourselves, really honest, then we have to admit that we're not really living with freedom. We're not really living up to our potential. Peace, fulfillment, joy, hope… these things can seem fragile and fleeting at times. It's because, like the elephant trained to accept the rope, we have accepted limitations on our lives. We've accepted lies about who we are and those lies end up dictating our actions and the way that we live.
Let me give you an example to explain this. I'm a musician. I've been playing guitar for almost 25 years now and I've been a worship leader in various churches for most of that. As a leader, I'm constantly on the hunt for musicians to be a part of our church worship, even if I need to train them up or help them acquire the skills they need. I've learned that, more important than their skill level, is their willingness to work at it. Most people can be trained, but few have the right attitude to want to put the effort level required in. I regularly hear things like, "I'll just never be that good" or "I'm not as good as you" or "this is really hard, I don't think I'm cut out for it". When I was starting out, I wasn’t that good at it either. It was really hard. But I persevered and kept working at it. If you believe you can't do it, you won't. If you believe it's too hard, you have made it too hard in your brain and accepted your limitation.
Now let me give you a more serious example… one that wounds me to admit. For years I struggled with an addiction to pornography. I struggled with it while being a pastor and serving in leadership at church. It was a curse on my life and I constantly wrestled with shame over it… but no matter how hard I tried or how bad I felt, I just couldn't seem to break free. At a really low moment, I decided to get counselling and started digging into why I had the compulsions that I did. After some deep soul searching, I realized that I had a core belief about myself where I didn't believe that if people really knew me they would love me. Because of that belief I kept people at a distance (I rejected them first, believing that they would reject me) and kept myself from love. Naturally, I felt pretty empty inside… and that emptiness was a void that needed to be filled. I filled that void with porn. I was like the elephant. Even though in Christ I am a new creation, I am free, no sin can bind me, I accepted the lie that I was bound. I accepted a lie that I couldn't be loved or wasn't worth love and that lie defined me.
Now I've changed. I have combatted the lie with truth. I read and believe that Jesus loved me so much that He died on a cross for me… my sin doesn't have to define me anymore. He made a way for me to be free. I point to the evidence I have that my wife, my kids, my friends, my parents, my church all love me. (they don't always agree with me, but that's a different thing) I believe that my identity in Christ is that of a treasured son, a welcome part of the family of God. Because I've turned to the truth, I am free of my former addiction and have been for years. That old rope has no power to hold me anymore.
Are you bound in your thoughts by lies that you believe about yourself? Are you like an elephant that has accepted its bonds, never living in the freedom that you were created for? Jesus Christ has made a way for you. Jesus said that His disciples would know the truth "and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) He also said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6) in a clear invitation for all people to come to Him to live free. You are invited, so come and live free. Renew your thinking about who you are and start to live the way that you are created to live.