I am pretty convinced that one of the biggest gifts of this life are those friends that are actually more like family, those ones that know the good, the bad and the ugly but still stick close, the people that you sit round the table with or curl up on the sofa with and feel like home, that make you feel known, safe and loved.
Despite all that life doesn’t look like that maybe I hoped it would have looked like I can say that I have a good few of those people, and that makes me very rich indeed. This week I got to go away with one of them and it was good for the soul. It was a reminder that whilst plenty of mess is going on around us, we don’t walk it alone and that we weren’t meant to walk it alone. That even in the midst of the mess there can be peace, joy and laughter in being known and being loved.
It reminded me again of a card one of my friends sent me, a few years ago, with these words in them (which hopefully she won’t mind me sharing!!!)
“Female elephants 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 Mama and incoming baby in protection, sending a clear signal to predators that if they want to attack their friend while they are vulnerable, they’ll have to get through 40 tons of female aggression. When the baby is delivered, the sister elephants do two things: they kick sand or dirt over the newborn to protect its fragile skin from the sun, and then they all start trumpeting, a female 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 this: elephants normally take this formation in only two cases – under attack by predators or during the birth of a new elephant.
This is what we do when our sisters are vulnerable, when they are giving birth to new life, new ideas, new ministries, new spaces, when they are under attack, when they need their people to surround them so they can create, discover, deliver, heal, recover…… we get in formation. We close ranks and literally have other’s backs. When delivery comes, when new life marks its entrance, when healing begins, when the night has passed and our sister is ready to rise back up, we sound trumpets because we saw it through together. We celebrate and cheer, we raise our glasses and give thanks. “
I love the idea that throughout every part of the animal kingdom runs that thread of community, of protecting what we love, of fighting for our people.
Ever since reading those words the elephant has been my favourite animal.
I am pretty sure none of us come through this life unscathed, pain and suffering are part of the story as much as joy and love are, they go hand in hand, you can’t have one without the other.
When the heartbreaks leave so many unanswered questions. When life throws its curveballs, when you sit there wondering how you ended up in this place, or when it simply doesn’t look like you had hoped or expected. When the door closes or that person disappears or the health that you have always taken for granted is no longer a given.
There will always be a when. But when the whens come I pray there will be your tribe, your people, your safe places – we are not meant to do this alone. That is not the way it was ever meant to work.
Every time my whens have come I have come out of the other side because I have been surrounded, I have been held up, I have been fought for.
There is such beauty in seeing tribes closing rank until that person is strong enough to stand again, to walk again, to hope again. It grows deep roots, it pushes people forward, it heals, it restores, it births new life.
So in this harsh, wild world I think those elephants have so much to teach us – it will be messy it, it probably won’t be quick or easy but oh the beauty it will show us.