Safari Ya Kumjua Mungu

October 18, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

 I entitled this installment, "The Adventure of Experiencing God", but, in Swahili, thanks to a Kenyan friend of mine. In this article, I will attempt to define our relationship with God using a poem by John Godfrey Saxe, "The Blind Men and the Elephant", based upon an ancient parable with basically the same name and the Biblical book of the Song of Solomon.

 The poem goes like this:

THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT

I.

IT was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
 

II.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me!—but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"
 

III.

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried: "Ho!—what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 't is mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"
 

IV.

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:

"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"
 

V.

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'T is clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"
 

VI.

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"
 

VII.

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"
 

VIII.

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

MORAL.

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

 In this example, we will use the Elephant as a representation of God. (Actually, the Biblical book of Job compares an elephant to God saying that, "He is the chief of the ways of God"- Job 40:19a, so my meanderings are not so far off.) In the poem above, six blind men set out to discover the great creature, the elephant. They could only base their findings on the specific part on which their hand would land. The first touched the side, declaring the elephant was like a wall. The second touched a tusk and compared the creature to a spear. The third took hold of the squirming trunk and was convinced the elephant was a snake. The fourth felt around the leg of the behemoth...it must be a tree. The fifth touched the ear and exclaimed that the animal was a fan. The sixth seized onto the swinging tail and decided that all other observers were mistaken, for the animal was like a rope. The parable goes on that the various findings led to fist fight due to the arrogance and ignorance of each man.

 This is much like us all when discovering God. Just as the blind men had never seen the elephant, no one has seen God. We determine our beliefs about God through our interactions with Him, many times a single touch during tragedy or blessing. Sometimes we base our beliefs on what we have been told about Him. I have always found personal experiences are greater than happenstance hearsay. But, we do not have to be blind like the men in this story. We actually have an advantage, we have the written Word of God, written by God and about God. Through reading and studying the Bible, we get a broader understanding of God's character. As we study, He begins to touch our lives. It is a true adventure to pursue and experience God.

 The Song of Solomon from the Bible is probably avoided by many religious students and church members due to the explicit comparison of our love for God and the sexual love of a couple. (Immediately, I heard people rush to blow the dust from their Bibles to read this book!!) And, Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live, is correct. Once we understand who God is, see the wonders He performs and the blessings He bestows, we desire to be with Him. As with our significant other, we want to know more, feel more and understand Him more. We desire a closer intimacy with Him. Moreover, God desires a closer relationship with us. Our eyes become opened and our spirits lifted as we experience His love, peace, direction and, even, His anger, correction, and forgiveness. And, in addition, our perception is heightened as we discover Him from a closer perspective.

 So, as Saxe's writing concludes, we learn the moral to put our petty ignorance aside, observe, experience and behold the Elephant!!

"So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!"
 

 

 


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