Insight From Isaac (And the Elephant In the Room)

There are many ways we could describe the book of Job: a meditation on suffering, a call to fear of the Lord, a theological discussion on culpability, a *very* early episode of Law & Order.

In recent years, I have come to appreciate Job as a creation story in poetic form. The late Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message, especially unearths the language of creation.

But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you;
let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics.
Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories.
Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree
that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand—
Every living soul, yes,
every breathing creature?
— Job 12:7-12 (The Message)

We know from Scripture that Job had a lot of animals on his land, and I’m guessing Eugene Peterson was well acquainted with the four-footed and winged, too. The opening translation of verse 7 is imperative: ask the animals, and learn from them. Since Isaac the dog appeared, I’ve tried to follow Job’s words as the 11th commandment. As I’ve written numerous times in this blog, the Lord speaks to us through creation, especially through animals to whom we will listen.

Isaac’s relationship with his toys has always intrigued me. I wrote in October 2015 about watching him choose carefully from his extensive collection, and I still pay attention to which toys get the most attention.

Normally, he is playful with toys in the morning, but in recent months, he has started digging through the squeaks and stuffing to play at night, too. Sunday evening was such a night. I was sitting next to Isaac on the sofa, winding down and watching an episode of Law & Order (yes, that’s the second reference already!). Isaac suddenly jumped off and headed to his toy basket. His nose went down, his tail went up, and out came his recent favorite: the toy elephant.

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I paused the TV and watched him. He tossed the elephant in the air. He chewed on it. He jerked it around. He licked it. He honked all three of its squeakers. The elephant in the room was no match for the paw-stor.

After a while, he tucked it under his head and fell asleep. The elephant that he had “fought” so hard had become his pillow. He rested on what had once rattled him.

We’ve all probably heard the phrase, “the elephant in the room,” to designate an issue or concern that everybody sees but no one wants to address. We avoid something that we must eventually confront. We don’t deal with the tension and conflict that are as impossible to push away as an elephant.

Isaac gave me fresh perspective on how to deal with the issues we want to avoid. Don’t look at them with dread. Pull the elephant out of the its “hiding place” and deal with it. There may be squeaking and pushes and pulls. There may also be relief we would not have found any other way

So often, once we’ve struggled with our elephants in the room, we are able to rest more easily. We may even find more in common with the elephant than we imagined. What bothered us may end up comforting us.

Whether animals are real like Isaac or stuffed like the elephant, Job and his translator, Eugene Peterson, were right: creation teaches us to learn the basics. Let’s cease dancing around the troubles we don’t want to address. Instead, let’s grab them by the paws and find the rest that God desires for all his children (and pets).

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian (and Paw-stor Isaac)