There is this fascinating phenomenon that occurs when a female elephant is in distress—for example, when she is giving birth. All the other females in the herd will form a protective circle around her, stomping and kicking up dust so as to shield her from any predators that may be nearby. They do a similar thing for any sick elephant, young or old, who needs extra protection.
A circle of strength.
I think it’s an intuitive thing even for us humans. How many times have I “circled the wagons,” so to speak, after a particularly hard day, or week, or season? When my kids were little, we would cease the playdates and have picnics on the living room floor, watch movies, eat pizza, and play some board games together. It was a time of reconnection and regrouping.
As my children have morphed into young adults, this encircling happens less often but is still so yearned for and very necessary. And it’s usually not just our family that gets roped into these circles anymore. Close friends and relatives have come to our aid when we grapple with tough times and sudden struggles. And we willingly let them in because they have proven their dedication to us, dropping everything and stampeding into our lives and hearts to trample the fear and kick up the dust of peace and love and hope as they encircle us time and again. They are our elephants.
Who are your elephants?
Even the Blessed Mother had “elephants.” Upon hearing that her cousin Elizabeth was with child, she journeyed to her side. It was not an easy journey, especially for one so young and newly pregnant. Yet she went. To rejoice with her cousin and share her own news. To ponder the wisdom and, yes, heartache of God’s ways. Surely Elizabeth was concerned for Mary—for the coming ridicule and misunderstanding, for the persecution of being pregnant and not married. Surely Mary was just as concerned for Elizabeth—for her health, her advanced age, and the perils of child bearing. They must have cried and comforted each other, rejoiced and hoped and, most of all, prayed. In sharing that time and those thoughts and burdens, they encircled each other, reminded each other of who authors their lives, and kept the predatory thoughts of doubt and despair at bay.
During a particularly excruciating season of our lives, my herd surrounded me. They kicked up the dust and would not let any predators tear at my already wounded heart. My sister and her kids made the hour-long journey to just hang out with us for the day. It was so comforting. Friends near and far texted and prayed. An image of Our Lady of Sorrows now graces our home thanks to the thoughtfulness of a long-distance college friend. They placed us in the middle and held space for us in the center of their lives. It was a game-changer in a million little different ways. God has blessed all of his creation with this intuitive reaction of protection and vigilance. A wondrous manifestation of his love that gives us these earthly consolations.