Is There a White Elephant in Your Life?

December 10, 2009

We had our annual church Christmas Banquet last Friday night. The room was beautifully decorated and the food was fabulous. Scott and I host a table every year, which means we bring our Christmas dishes, centerpiece, candles, and favors for each place, as well as invite people to sit with us. Table hosts make sure everyone feels welcome. After dinner and dessert is the much-anticipated White Elephant Gift Exchange.

Have you ever been to one? Each person brings a wrapped gift. It may be a good gift or it may be a “white elephant.” The white elephant is the ugly placemat set you’ve been dying to get rid of ever since Aunt Gladys gave it to you and she won’t be at the banquet, so…into the gift bag it goes. Or, it’s the gag gift you got at the last White Elephant gift exchange! Gifts can be stolen, so the good gifts move around a couple turns till they are “frozen.” If you open a “white elephant,” you are stuck with it forever.

The Real White Elephant

I did some checking and the “white elephant” phrase comes from the Southeast Asian monarchs of the world. A white elephant (yes, an actual elephant) was a sacred gift, a sign of the monarch’s favor on you. To be given a white elephant was an honor, but also difficult. Because the beast was considered sacred, no one was allowed to use it for labor. You had all the upkeep costs and no labor benefits to offset that cost. Oh, look! We’ve been given a white elephant—great!

Perhaps we already own a white elephant. No, really. We need to look in the backyard of our heart. Is that a white elephant out there?

Our Own Honored Burden?

Sometimes people give us “gifts” that we hold onto when we really should get rid of them. That “backhanded compliment” that over time, you’ve come to believe about yourself. The inherited sin of your family you feel you can’t escape. Sometimes people unconsciously try to honor someone who has passed on or who was a mentor by living out things that aren’t even positive. We take on burdens from other people that may have nothing to do with us at all. But the truth is, when we are bound, we don’t make anyone else more free.

Freedom

It’s time to let that white elephant go. It’s not really an honor. It really is a burden. So why not take that attitude or habit and give it to Jesus? Picture giving the reins of that white elephant to Him. He will lead it out of your backyard and take it away and you can be free.

Jesus came that we “may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). He also came to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners, … to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18). Let’s not labor under burdens put on us by other people, not matter who it was or even if their intent was good. Let the white elephant go. Walk free.

What is the white elephant you’re giving to Jesus today?

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2 Comments

  1. Ahh yes, those White Elephants are so tricky! I have found they come into my life from so many places:

    A simple comment – not even one that is meant to be harmful.

    From my own insecurity – If they do it better, that diminishes my value.

    Through imaginations of what someone else thought (if that isn’t a losing proposition, I don’t know what is).

    And once the W.E. has been grasped by me, it often is given roots – again by me – when I begin to mull it over in my mind. Amazingly, it may become my biggest topic of thought for days on end. Then when it has worked it’s big head into many areas of my heart, I easily regurgitate it to others as part of who I am through my speech and actions. It is most sad when I am unaware of it. At that point, if I am paying attention, I will hear God and others warning me about it. Too often though, the W.E. has taken up so much space (with it’s big rear end) that there is not much room left for the light of truth.

    I have come to know that if I realize there is a White Elephant in my life, it is best to go quickly to God. He is my savior in all things. He is the one who can bring the light of truth into the lies and deceit that the W.E. has put into my heart.

    A current W.E. I am moving out of my life is: being alone vs. being lonely. Being that my hubby works out of town several days each week and we live in a rural area, people often comment on how much time I spend alone, and how I must find myself being lonely.

    Of course there were some times that was true, but I began to believe it on a core level. Thus, instead of going about my weeks in the usual manner, I would spend more time at home alone being lonely. Not calling on friends, serving others, or even tending to business details. Just sitting being lonely.

    Once I realized how this lie had become a part of my life I went to God for forgiveness. His forgiveness is so sweet as it has reparative aspects – and boy did I need repairing. I was sad at how much time I had wasted on being lonely because others expected it. And I had to remember to do things, instead of acting out the lie of loneliness.

    Thankfully, I am coming up on the flip side of loneliness and am again moving through life as one who has God given purpose in each day. Being that God will never leave me or forsake me, I can never be alone, only without the company of others.

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  2. Kim, thank you so much for sharing. Isn’t that amazing – you were becoming lonely because people expected it of you! I’m so glad you know to let the Lord set you free. I will always remember that example.

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