For 5 years I worked free contact with elephants. I loved it despite the obvious dangers and hard work. Elephants are extremely intelligent and powerful animals. They are capable of creating bonds with each other and keepers. However, one bad day can be tragic. I was very aware of this possibility every time I worked with them. It was repeated to me often how dangerous the situation was and to always be on my game. For the most part I understood but I had an added benefit that other keepers did not.
A number of people who had been in the business many years warned me of a phenomenon in which elephant keepers are the most vulnerable. It usually happens around the 2 year mark in an elephant keepers career. They become cocky and think they can do things that other more experienced keepers can do. In their own minds they become invulnerable. They believe they can handle any situation that can happen and often forget how dangerous the animals are despite repeated warning. After a number of years in the field a highly experienced individual observed some training I was involved in. He asked me later about this phenomenon and wondered why I never got to this point when every other keeper experienced it on some level. I explained why and it has application to life in general.
Collosians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” Before I would step in with the elephants I would pray. Most elephant trainers depend on their training and wits to safely work such large animals. For me I understood that my training was important but me keeping safe was only an illusion. I really had very little control at all. When asking a 10000 pound animal to move over, do they really need to do it if they do not want? Without notice something could go wrong. Ephesian 1:11 “We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” I also understood that God was in control. It wasn’t my training or another keepers training or even the elephants themselves. Nothing could happen to me without God’s approval. I understood a very important detail in this regard as well. Psalm 86:5 “For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive and abundant in loving kindness to all who call upon You.” He loves me and all I had to do is call on Him. This gave me consistent confidence as I entered the elephants habitat.
Isn’t this true in life? We go about trying to order things as we see fit. Thinking we can change our environment around us and force people to bend to our will. Then we get frustrated at ourselves, others and God when things don’t go our way. It doesn’t really seem like we are in much control as much as we would like to think otherwise. I think it would be better to believe Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” Now I try to live this daily as if I was entering the elephant enclosure when I get out of bed each morning. As I lay in bed trying to wake up, instead of lamenting the day, I sing praises to my creator. I thank Him for the day and Jesus for his sacrifice. I look to Him for wisdom throughout the day and the ability serve and worship Him.