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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Stephen Colbert and the elephant keeper

At first glance, a Facebook video of Stephen Colbert arguing with the logic of a Christian author and a video of a former circus elephant being released into the wild might not seem like they have much in common. But by some chance convergence I ended up watching them both on nearly the same day, and their stories so complemented each other that I came away with a deeper understanding of my own faith.

Stephen had a self-avowed "Christian theologian" who had written a book exposing the supposed "conspiracy" of the writing of the Gospel accounts.None of his "ground breaking news" was new, and his shoddy conclusions showed a lack of understanding of the most basic of good research regarding primary source documents and how to determine the veracity of eye witness accounts. Colbert, however, did not travel the road of the Christian apologist; he took the road Jesus would have taken: he told a parable.

Most of you are familiar with the story of the blind men and the elephant. Colbert relayed that story to illustrate the point that each Gospel writer had only a piece of the story. When he finished telling the story, he simply looked the author in the eye, a wry smile on his face, and stated with gentleness, "Maybe Jesus is the elephant."

The next day, I was compelled to watch an elephant video on Facebook. A circus elephant, aging and bone weary, was about to be set free into an elephant sanctuary.Awaiting her, after a 26 year separation, was a much younger elephant who, as a baby, had spent time as part of the same circus.In the video, the narrator explained that these elephants had been separated since those circus years, and all were wondering how they might react to each other.You can imagine the touching scene that awaited.

But it is what transpired before the release that captured me.The elephant keeper who had been caring for her gave her one last bath.And as he held her aged and scarred foot, which she gently lifted into his hands, he ruminated on the chains that had been part of her existence for decades."I don't know who the first person was that put her in chains," he said quietly."But I will be the last one to take them off.She is free."

The footage of her welcome by her young friend was breathtaking.They embraced trunks, and she leaned into the healthier, younger elephant as though they had always been best of friends.If they had been human, they would have run into each other's embrace and kept kissing each other pausing only long enough to pull away and gaze into each other's eyes with love and gratitude that the journey had finally brought them together.

Then it hit me: this is how it will be when I meet Jesus.I will run to Him like a long, lost, precious, friend who never forgot me and who held me always in his thoughts.I will rest in His green pastures and lie beside His quiet streams, my pain forgotten, my heart healed.

But before I do, I will have a loving Creator and caretaker who will release whatever chains have bound me, wash me one final time, and announce,

I know who the first person was that put you in chains,

and I will be the last one to take them off.

You are free.

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