Those blind men with that elephant

blind men and elephantIt’s an old story, turned into verse, which you can read here, from an old Indian legend.  Nowadays it might be considered politically incorrect. But there’s a point to it.

You may well be familiar with it. Six blind men begin feeling different parts of an elephant. One feels the ear and concludes the elephant is like a fan. One feels the leg and decided the elephant is like a tree. One takes hold of the trunk and thinks the elephant is like a snake. One grabs the tail and says the elephant is like a rope. One feels the sides and declares it’s like a wall. Another touches the tusk and thinks it’s like a spear.

So you get the idea. It ends with all of them arguing about what an elephant is really like.

The author draws the obvious parallel to those who argue about things they know little about, but the key line is this: “Each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong.”

How would you have tried to help them see the completeness, the totality of what an elephant really is? Maybe you would have said, “Fellas, you’re missing the whole point. You’re totally missing it! Yes, I suppose the elephant is a little like a fan/tree/rope/snake/wall/spear, but none of those is really what an elephant is at ALL!”

And you might try to explain and explain, and you might run their hands over various parts of the elephant, and maybe they’d start to get a little touch of insight.

But now, suppose a miracle worker had come onto the scene and declared to those arguing blind men, “Receive your sight.” All six of them would have all gasped to see what an elephant really was. They would have all seen that each of them was right in a way.

But really, they were all completely wrong.

Is an elephant really like a fan-tree-rope-snake-wall-spear combination? A sort of toggled machine?

No.  They had all missed the big picture of what an elephant is. The very biggest thing they missed is that the elephant is alive.

When their eyes are opened, they would say, “Oh, now I see! It’s so obvious!”

That’s the Christian life. Some people who see themselves as discerners of the Christian life might say, “The Christian life is about this certain thing. Or about that certain thing.”

But until the Lord opens our eyes to see the whole picture, the big picture, the divine picture that’s truly alive, we can’t really grasp it.

All of us, as we may see men like trees walking, can continue to cry out to God, “O Lord, that I may receive my sight!”

And we’ll gasp at the grandeur and excellence of what we see.

 

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