There is an elephant in our house. It is old and heavy and black. It is only about a foot
tall, and it has always been in my life. Before the pachyderm resided in my house, it was in my
grandparents’ house. Although it belonged to both of my grandparents, whom I adored, I have
always associated it more with Granddad than with my grandmother. I don’t know why. I
remember it being in their living room. It was always in their living room. No doubt, it was in
their living room before I was born.
When my grandparents passed away in the 1980s, I was lucky enough to become
caretaker of the cast-iron elephant. I have treasured it ever since, not because of what it is.
Truth be told, no one would consider it a work of art. But it is valuable to me for what it
represents, namely two people whom I loved and who helped shape my life.
When our oldest child was six or seven years old, I walked into our living room; and I
found the elephant lying on its side. I picked it up to set it back on its feet, and I discovered that
one of its tusks had been broken off. I surmised that Tara had been playing with it and damaged
this treasured artifact. I was not pleased. In fact, I probably spoke to her harshly, although my
memory is not clear on that point. I took the severed tusk, put it in a drawer, and resolved to
find a way to re-attach it. I never did, and now I have even lost it.
Today, thirty years later, the one-tusk elephant occupies a place alongside my desk. It
faces the wall presenting its good side to those who care to notice and its defaced side to the
I am loathe to admit that it took a long time for me to get over Tara’s infraction.
An interesting thing has happened over the last three decades. Whenever I notice the
elephant, it reminds me of my grandparents, as it always has, but now it also reminds me of my
daughter. I think of how proud I am of her. She has excelled in her education and her career
and especially as a mother. She is a good person. If she had not ever damaged the elephant, it
would serve to remind me only of my grandparents, but now because Tara left her own little
modification on it, I also think of her and what she means to me. And I am pleased. Where I
thought this treasured object had been diminished, over time, it has become even more valued.
In this story, there are three imperfect creations.
First, the elephant. It is flawed because it now has only one tusk, but God uses it, as
imperfect as it is, to recall to my mind not only my grandparents but also my cherished
Second, Tara. As a youngster, she made a mistake, but that is not nearly as big of a thing
now as what it once seemed. All of us sin, God forgives our transgressions. We know that truth
because Christ died so that our sins might not be held against us.
Third, me. I was perturbed with Tara. It took me a long time to get over her mistake, but
I did. Actually, God did it for me. Even as flawed as I am, God, in time, gave me the ability to
forgive a little girl who had made a little girl mistake. God can even redeem a sinner like me.
My points: We are flawed. God is great.
Ken Tubbesing is pastor of the Martin Luther Church south of Johnson.