In the church, we talk a lot about community and what it means. The above picture is a group of female elephants, and it is an example of true community that is found in nature. You see, in the wild, when a mama elephant is giving birth, all the other female elephants in the herd back around her in formation. They close ranks so that the delivering mama cannot even be seen in the middle. They stomp and kick up dirt and soil to throw attackers off the scent.
They surround the laboring mama, sending a clear signal to predators that if they want to attack their friend while she is vulnerable, they’ll have to get through 40 tons of female aggression first. And, when the baby elephant is delivered, the sister elephants do two things (1) they kick sand or dirt over the newborn to protect its fragile skin from the sun, and (2) they all start trumpeting … a celebration of new life, of sisterhood, of something beautiful being born in a harsh, wild world despite enemies and attackers and predators and odds.
Scientists tell us that they normally take this formation only in two cases – under attack by predators like lions, or during the birth of a new elephant.
This is what community looks like. When our brothers and sisters are vulnerable, when they are giving birth to new life, new ideas, new ministries, new space, when they are under attack, when they need their people to surround them so they can create, deliver, heal, recover … we get in formation. We close ranks and literally have each other’s backs.
And when deliverance comes, when new life makes its entrance, when healing finally begins, when the night has passed and our sister or brother is ready to rise back up, we sound our trumpets because we saw it through together. We celebrate! We cheer! We give thanks.
We celebrate this eternal community God made possible when He gave His only Son to die in our place and rise again to new life, breaking the bondage of death.
Andy and I have a spunky two-year old that we bring with us to church each week. And, as you can probably imagine, a common topic in our household lately has been “obedience.”
I find myself telling our toddler, “If you would listen to me … “ you would see that what I am asking of you or telling you to do with be for your benefit!
If you would listen to me and put on your jacket, you will be warm.
If you would listen to me and eat your food, you will no longer be hungry.
If you would listen to me and get in the car, you get to go somewhere fun!
But there are, more times than not, that my son chooses to argue, ignore, or even run from me. And I am saying under my breath, “if you would just listen, you would see how fun and joyous life can be. Things don’t have to be this difficult!”
One night this week, after a day of typical pushback from my 2-year old, I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a quote from an account I follow. I have never felt more like a toddler than I did when reading that quote. It said:
“You have no idea what God can set into motion through the one single act of obedience.”
And, isn’t it interesting that God can use children to refine us? Just as Tatum sometimes can’t understand the outcome or benefit of listening to me, I can’t fathom what God could do if I simply said yes to what he is asking me to do!
Noah obeyed God and built the ark before he saw the flood.
Moses obeyed God and struck his staff into the water before he saw the Red Sea divide.
Ezekiel obeyed God and prophesied to the dry bones before he saw them rise.
The young boy obeyed the Lord and gave his small portion of bread and fish before he saw the 5,000 fed.
Peter obeyed the Lord before he stepped out of the boat and miraculously walked on water.
Jesus obeyed his father and hung upon the cross before he died, defeated death, and rolled the stone away from his grave.
The first step might not make sense, but our obedience could change this world and prove one simple truth. “Nothing is impossible for the lord our God.” Our fear or stubbornness is surely worth defeating if we knew what was on the other side of our obedience.
Now I hear God saying to me, “If you would just listen to me, I can do amazing things through you! It doesn’t have to be difficult!”
A few weeks ago, I was tasked with the job of picking my 3-year old granddaughter up from preschool. It was the first time I had visited the school, but Nona was expecting me. When I reached the door of the classroom and told the teacher I was there for Nona, she called out and said, “Nona, your grandma is here.” Nona whirled around and looked straight at me. She furrowed her brow and a frown spread across her face. “That’s NOT grandma!” she said.
The children joined in, several chanting, “Nona, your grandma is here.” Nona became obviously frustrated and said, “You guys, that’s NOT Grandma! That’s LULU!” You see, LuLu is the grandma name my daughters bestowed on me when Nona was born. And, she has another grandmother she calls Grandma.
So, despite the awkwardness, Nona had identified me correctly. I’m not her Grandma … I am her LuLu. We were able to get everything straightened out before Child Protective Services was called, and Nona happily took my hand and we left together.
As I’ve thought and chuckled about this experience, I’ve come to realize that Nona expressed more confidence in my identity than I sometimes feel. I’m a child of God … but sometimes I do not feel worthy of that name. I’m forgiven, but I occasionally still feel very guilty.
Through Jesus’s death and resurrection, we are invited to be identified as part of His family … children of God. What does this say about us … about the guarantee of our identity?