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Learning from Elephants

In the wild, female elephants form a circle around the most vulnerable female elephant at a time when she is injured or giving birth. They surround this sister elephant together, as a way of protection and encouragement. If she is giving birth, they keep her safe until the baby is delivered. They trumpet loudly in celebration once the baby has arrived. If the sister elephant has been injured, they protect her by kicking up dust and forming a safety circle so that predators cannot see her or get to her. 


This instinctive behavior within an elephant herd is one that we humans can foster and emulate within our own circles, and in scripture it lays out how we are to do it as Christian believers. 

  • Work at unity: Ephesians 4:3 “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.”

  • Pray for one another: James 5:16 “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” 

  • Tell each other the truth: Ephesians 4:15 “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.” We must speak God’s truth to one another, willing to say things that the other might not readily want to hear, always spoken in kindness and humility, with the purpose of helping each other become more like Christ. 

  • Love one another: Jesus said to His disciples: “I give you a new command: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34,35). Surround each other with patience, kindness, goodness, protection, generosity, honesty, humility, honor, trust, and forgiveness, seeking that good be done for other fellow Christians. These things are the evidence of your faith in Christ.  


Where do I see this elephant phenomenon happening among believers? I see it in my daughter’s friend group of Christian NASCAR wives where they circle around one another in difficult times. In November 2022 my daughter, Jenna, and her husband traveled with three small children, flying from Alaska to North Carolina, encountering horrendous travel difficulties. They arrived home the next morning to find that their heat was not working, and, by some misunderstanding, their large dogs had been left inside the house rather than put in the garage. The mess and the smell were overwhelming. My son-in-law needed to go straight to work from the airport because he had to report for team practice, which left my very tired daughter with the household clean-up as well as care of three exhausted preschoolers who had flown through the night. She texted her friend group to ask for prayer and to let them know she was home.  Immediately, two of them hopped in their cars and drove 20 and 35 minutes each to pitch in to help. Showing up and doing what they could in that situation was immensely encouraging to Jenna and to me. I repeatedly thank God for these friends of hers, as this is only one of many examples of how they have come alongside my daughter. Even though Jenna is more comfortable being a helper, she has allowed herself to be the elephant in the middle, and that shows strength as well—admitting we need support. 


Even though the elephant phenomenon occurs in females, and my own anecdote is about Christian women, this kind of support is not just for women. Men need their own elephant groups with like-minded Christian guys they can trust and safely be vulnerable with. My husband’s elephant group helps one another in tangible ways. They’ve shown up for each other by helping one man move his family from one house to another, working on home projects together, or taking their buddy to the airport at 1am. But they also share their hearts, struggles, and prayer requests because they have something deeper. They know how to challenge one another spiritually, spurring one another on to love and good deeds, and how to encourage one another by urging each other to hold fast to the principles of faith. 


My husband and I are blessed to each have our individual elephant groups, but we also have a core group of couple friends, our church Community Group, which encircles us as a married couple. We have been married for nearly 35 years now, and one third of it has been supported by this group of friends in a similar life-stage, which upholds us through everything. We gather for dinner twice a month, which naturally includes conversational catch-up time, followed by scripture reading, discussion of the Sunday sermon and how it applies to us, then ending with prayer for one another. In between our dinners and meetings, we keep in touch, making communication with one another a priority. Always, we pray on behalf of our group members and the concerns they share with us. 


So, think about your current situation. Is it clear to you who your trusted elephants are in your life?  Christian elephants hold one another accountable for remaining true to the faith and the word of God. They help in those moments one feels like they cannot go on. They encourage one another, reminding one another of the truth of God’s word and character. They pray for one another. They show up when a physical presence is needed and possible. 


Who do you know that needs surrounding this week? Or could it be time for you to occupy the inside of the circle for a while, having those who know and love you the best encircle you with love, prayer, and tangible means of caring for you? We take our turns and need to be willing to allow others to minister to us, even if we see ourselves as the type who likes to do the dust-kicking and the encircling. Don’t always see yourself as the strong elephant on the outside but be willing to lay in the center and be weak for a time, letting others care for and protect you. The time in the circle might produce new life within you in which you can begin the work of something new the Lord wants to do in and through you.

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Where was my circle of elephants? When my life went sideways, the female elephants in my life did nothing. No reaching out. No checking for my side of the story. I was all of a sudden on my own. I feel the opposite of this post is true in my case. No Christian friends were there. They vanished. So much for the elephant herd.

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Camy: I have reached out to you privately through text. I want to get together with you. Please respond to my text when you are able. I am available this weekend. I did not know your life went sideways. Years ago we were close. It's time I explain what happened. We need to reconnect.


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Thankful for my circle. Wonderful post!

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