Pink-Elephant Spotting

I can’t stand those magic eye pictures! I have never been able to see the secret picture. Even more annoying is how people who can see it, make out like it’s so simple. I am a very imaginative person, but for some reason, I’m too literal when it comes to magic eye pictures…doesn’t make sense. I’m so glad magic eyes have disappeared from pop culture and restored my confidence…

Despite my aversion to magic eye pictures, it’s fairly often that I find myself feeling like I am the only one who sees something. It’s actually been happening my entire life. And it’s only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. For those who can relate, I’m sure you’ve felt the pain of being the Pink-Elephant Spotter. While it sounds profound and insightful, it’s anything but that when you are sticking your neck out to draw attention to something that most people don’t want to see.

Whilst walking out this journey of writing and in particular my latest book Disillusioned: When You Get Lost Following Jesus, that will be hitting the shelves over the coming months…I’ve come to realise that it’s sort of a gift of mine and maybe even a calling, to see the uncomfortable thing that few would care to acknowledge. So I wanted to share with those of you who can relate, the most significant lessons I’ve learnt along the journey of Pink-Elephant Spotting:

  1. You’re seeing it for a reason

Sometimes the biggest challenge faced by Elephant Spotters is trusting in yourself. Often it’s because you don’t want to see what you’ve seen either, so you cast doubt on the likelihood of this possibility being true. There have been times that something has been revealed to me, that I have been tormented by for days. But low and behold, the situation unfolds and I’m slightly more prepared to deal with it emotionally than those around me. Of course, it doesn’t always happen that way. What I’ve realised is that if I have this kind of call, is that God is allowing me to see it for a reason. It might actually just be because I am willing to see it and willing to grapple with it, instead of ignoring and denying it. If you’ve seen something, it may be because you’ve been willing to see it. But in the process of seeing it, be careful to resist seeing it in yourself. I have a practice I try to implement whenever God shows me something: I don’t believe I have a right to comment on it unless I have been willing to see it in myself, repent and change my ways. For instance, if I have seen hypocrisy in some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I check my own heart first and repent for the hypocrisy I didn’t notice in myself. Either way, I acknowledge that I’ve seen it because He wanted me to see it.

  1. It can be lonely

It’s not a great quality of the Body of Christ, but we tend to be known more for silencing the voices we don’t like or that don’t appease us than allowing the voices that challenge us to be heard. There have been a few times that I have had friends tell me that they are not going to read certain authors works because they have presented ideas in a less than favourable light. Sadly, many would have said the same to Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah in their day. The fact is, that sometimes the exact people we should be listening to are the ones saying things we don’t want to hear. We may not realise that their commentary is fueled by righteous anger, an anger that is born of God and therefore worthy of airspace. And when we don’t listen, it can be another manifestation of a lack of surrender. 

But as for you, pink Elephant Spotter, it just means that it can feel rather lonely when you’re a voice that nobody wants to listen to. Or when you are the only one who sees what’s going on. It can feel weighty and isolating when you feel like you’re the only person in the room who sees this very obvious and critical matter for rectification. There isn’t much I can say to help alleviate your concerns about this, it just happens to be a significant part of the calling. If you are around people that can respect this quality, it makes a big difference to your journey. But sometimes the message is actually that important that we must accept the circumstances we find ourselves in, even if that is loneliness. This is where I think it is really important to have friends outside of the domains you work in or even commune in (if the matter is in your church community). We all still need friends, but if all of your friends are from work than when you are isolated for spotting elephants at work it can be depressing. I think the greatest hope I have had in these times, is 1 Samuel 30:6, where David found strength in the Lord. It is possible to find strength in God, even when you are the only person calling out a pink elephant.

  1. Your call to action is not always obvious

When something has been revealed to you, the temptation is to think that God wants you to do something about it right now. For instance, speaking up about the matter. And maybe you will one day, but in my experience what God intends us, pink elephant spotters, to do is not always obvious. I’ve seen some pretty concerning things via the Holy Spirit, but it’s sometimes been months and even years until God wants me to do something about it. And then the actions He seems to be leading me to take, has often been so different from what I would have assumed. That is why it is firstly so critical to pray. Unfortunately, we often assume that prayer is passive, but this is a misunderstanding of the power of prayer. Prayer is active and effective. It’s important to pray for the situation that you see and the people involved. But also pray that God will reveal to you what He would like you to do with what He has shown you.

  1. It will usually take courage to act 

When the time comes to draw attention to the pink elephant, remember that it will take courage to see it through. You’re not always going to be liked for your actions. But it’s probably worth it. I think of Martin Luther and what kind of courage it took for him to have nailed those theses to the doors of the Roman Catholic church. He couldn’t have known where his choices were going to take him, but he did it anyway. Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed about everything that God has put before us. My suggestion? Have the courage to do the next thing. In some cases, do that thing that you know you can’t back out of. There have been times when I’ve just said one thing, and opened a door that I know I can’t close again. Now that the door has been opened, I have no choice but to walk through it. Which means I only required the courage to open the door. The rest of it simply becomes a task of endurance.  

  1. Use wisdom in delivery

The Bible says, in your anger do not sin. That doesn’t mean that we can’t act when we are angry. In fact, that is sometimes precisely the time to act! But any action that is in essence sin, is unhelpful. Condemnation, judgement, gossip…these are all things that are unhelpful in delivering the truth or taking action. You are not better than those around you for having seen what you have. It is the grace of God that He allows you to see it. So be wise therefore in how you deliver it. 

A long time ago, when I was in worship one day, I heard the Holy Spirit say: ‘The kindness of God can heal a generation”. When we see something wrong with the world, often we want to get out and protest and be heard. This is not necessarily wrong of course, it just can imply that the path of kindness is the path of weakness. Kindness is anything but. Proverbs 15 says that a ‘gentle answer turns away wrath’. It also says that kind words cheer up the anxious heart (Proverbs 12). Kindness is an act of love and its a fruit of the Spirit. So in summary: kindness can change a person’s direction and it can change a person’s countenance? I’d say that’s pretty powerful.

Whenever we have something to share that might not be something that others really want to hear, my encouragement is to act in good character and to deliver it with kindness. We aren’t responsible for the response we get, but we are responsible for how we delivered it. And we’ve got more chance of being heard when we approach each other with gentleness.

  1. Have the humility to hold it loosely

The sad reality is that as much as I would desire my pink elephant spotting to change the circumstances, there is no guarantee that this will happen. As a pink elephant spotter, my job is simply to follow through with what God has put before me. I can warn, but I can’t change. This might frustrate us, but this was essentially the destiny of most prophets in the Bible. They would endure personal hardship for the message they carried, and yet rarely would people listen to them and adhere to their warning. 

And so it is important to hold loosely the consequence of having shared our findings. Being an elephant spotter means that we aren’t invested in other peoples validation anyway, otherwise, we wouldn’t carry on with sharing what we’ve seen. And neither does the outcome validate your role as a pink elephant spotter. It can be hard to journey this part because we often become emotionally invested in the things we’ve seen. We aren’t wrong for doing that! But when we become emotionally invested, we still ought to be careful to humbly follow God’s leading in all things. The message is never more important than God’s will coming to pass. God has a plan, so continue to pray and wait, in case He has more for you to do on the matter.