A Grace Lesson from “Walking with Elephants”

Last night I caught the replay of Animal Planet’s “Walking with Elephants.” This 3-episode documentary follows Levison Wood’s 650-mile journey across Botswana to observe the annual migration of elephants to the Okavango Delta.


In the first episode, he is allowed to visit an elephant orphanage before heading off on his journey. The young elephants there had been rescued from various traumas-bush fires, death and separation from herds, poaching traps. The philosophy of the orphanage was to prepare the elephants to go back into the wild by not trying to control them as much as let them learn on their own. 

When asked how long the elephants would be there, I was a little surprised at the answer. The director said it usually takes 8-10 years. But as he explained his approach, it made sense. Before they are declared rehabilitated, they need to be able to survive on their own in a harsh world of predators. Outside of their herd, they are very vulnerable up until they are roughly ten years old (they live to an average age of 65). 

I see many applications from this reality for our lives. Here are the main two:

  1. Children of trauma have a long road ahead of them. It’s important their trauma is understood, their work through it is supervised, and their recovery be thorough. Whatever role we play in that work, it’s vital we understand this and give the grace and patience for that work to be completed.
  2. Trauma recovery or rehabilitation of any kind takes time. A quick-fix mindset sabotages the goal of full recovery. The body and the mind have to reset, reprogram, and strengthen. For some reason, the midlife of Moses’ story comes to my mind. After finding out his true identity and then losing control of his emotions and committing murder, God graciously gave him 40 years to recover before lighting up that bush. Moses needed full recovery.

Whether we are on the receiving or giving end of this kind of work, grace is key. That grace will empower the work to be completed, and the new life to start well. May we embrace that grace.

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