Thursday, March 24, 2016

Unending Love, Amazing Grace

Shirley was in her late teens when she became acquainted with Jenny.  Jenny had been sent to America from Africa in her early years.  It was a match made in heaven when Shirley became such a friend to Jenny that Jenny sort of looked to Shirley as a mother-figure. 

Shirley and Jenny are elephants.  They became such good friends when they found each other on a circus tour, and they developed a very close relationship.  Years passed and the circus decided they could only afford one elephant, so Shirley and Jenny were separated. 

Shirley then became close to her caretaker, the man in charge of feeding her, spraying her with a water hose several times a day, and staking her to her chain, an action that brought tears to the caretaker. Shirley was 30 years old when she became the lone elephant of the circus.  She did not see another elephant for over 20 years after she and Jenny were separated.

When Shirley was retired, she was accepted into an "elephant-retirement-farm," and was housed in a barn which had steel rail bars separating her from other elephants.  This would determine if the elephants were compatible with each other so they could eventually be placed in pastures with other elephants that were friendly.  Shirley's caretaker for over 20 years was with her when she was checked into the elephant barn.  With tears in his eyes, he stated that was the first time Shirley had her own stall and bed of hay.  She would no longer have to experience the bonds of chains around her legs.

Another elephant arrived at the facility and was placed in the barn stall next to Shirley.  The two elephants were immediately friends, their trunks actually embracing each other through the bars which separated them.  Their new caretakers immediately knew these two elephants were compatible and were soon allowed to roam together in the lush, green pastures.  You guessed it......the other elephant was Jenny.  After 20+ years of separation, they knew each other and continued to be together daily until an illness took Jenny's life.  (I could write pages on the rituals of Shirley and the other elephants during Jenny's illness and death.  Some day, I might!)

Jenny now has other friends from the elephant herd, not to mention the care and concern of her caretakers and the friendly people who visit the elephant farm from time to time. 

I was drawn to this story through watching some online videos about Shirley and Jenny.  I could not get the picture of agony out of my mind when her original caretaker spoke of having to chain her legs at night.  I will also remember his happiness in announcing her new home at the farm allowed her freedom from chains.

Another picture in my mind, and in my heart, is one of closeness of these two elephants.  They were together constantly, playing in the water and mud, roaming the pastures, sleeping side by side.  Their bonds of friendship were more than friendship. It had to be called a relationship. 

Much in the same way, we also experience freedom when we are made aware of the mission of Jesus, told in prophecy, and fulfilled in his ministry, to set the captive free. Freedom?  Do you need to be free from anything?  It's something we all need when we reflect on our sins, our attitudes, our habits, and our flesh.  And beyond all that, our freedom puts us in "relationship" with others who experience that same freedom.  Jesus said it like this:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free."   

As we get closer to the events of the cross, we are made to know his good news of freedom, healing and delivery from oppression.  We view the horrible scene of Jesus dying on the cross, while experiencing his love and forgiveness.  He paid the price with his cross, and we can now know his victory in the resurrection is our victory, too.  Praise God our living Lord sets us free. 
"My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace."


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