The Centre of the Herd

We went biking this week – as we often do our little family.

Dad at the front 2 littles in the middle, Mama at the rear.

It feels safe that way – one to check for danger at the front, one watching over the ‘littles’ from the back.

It’s made me think about elephants and herds – the way they travel from place to place ‘littles’ in the middle to protect them from attack, to protect them from wandering off and becoming lost or distressed or getting into trouble.

I thought about our church communities – do we do that with our vulnerable ones? Do we place them right in the centre where we can love on them, where we can keep an eye out for them, where we can point the way and carry them along with momentum when they become exhausted?

Or do we leave the vulnerable on the fringes – kind of embarrassed by their mess and noise. Do we neglect the ones that are hard to include and push the ‘littles’ away to other rooms where they won’t make a scene?

A herd of elephants is not made from the elephants picking the ones they’d like to hang out with – the cool, fast, elite, stable ones…. a herd is built around a family extending outwards for support and protection.

A family is not built around the best of the best – sometimes there are unexpected arrivals, and not what I would have picked in-laws, there are longed for babies that don’t arrive, less than perfect relationships, the annoying uncle and grandparent with bad breath.

So it is in church… a church is not a building for beautiful people to meet and celebrate their elite spot in society – it is a journey together towards a final destination. This journey includes falling outs, disappointments, people that don’t quite fit, needy people, loud people, shy people, people who always say the right thing and people who never say the right thing.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could travel like that elephant herd – towards a destination of water and safe pasture with the littles, the vulnerable, the needy in the centre – surrounded by the stronger ones who choose, because it is a choice, to journey at the pace of the weakest because even the weakest matters.

Just like our little bike adventure we keep the ‘littles’ in the middle because we want to protect them, we want them to learn and grow in safety, because it is our life’s work to do all we can to support those littles until they are big enough and strong enough to take the front and back and protect the ‘littles’ that come into their lives.

Shouldn’t church be beautiful because it is a slowly-forward moving journey where no one is left behind and we place the hardest to love and the easiest to neglect right in the centre where we can never forget them?

I want to be that herd, I want to care about the ‘littles’, I want to see the world moved by a picture of love that makes no sense, in action towards the source of all life. I want to grow into that kind of person.

* when I say littles I mean all sorts of people – anyone who for now, or for always needs a little help along the journey. I’ve been a little and I’ve been a big and sometimes I have changed those roles from week to week.

1 Corinthians 12 v22-26
22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

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