In a South African game park known for rescuing animals from extinction, there was a problem. Approximately 39 endangered white rhinos had been attacked and killed. Poaching was ruled out as a cause since the valuable rhino horns were left untouched. So game wardens began monitoring activity within the park and what they found was fascinating. A group of younger orphaned elephants that had been transferred from another game park were the culprits. Unusual, since elephants are typically herbivores and attacking rhinos went against their very nature.
The problem had started nearly 20 years earlier when there were too many elephants in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The proposed solution was to cull the adult population of elephants and save the children, who could be easily transported. “The intentions may have been good but the program created a whole generation of traumatized orphans thrown together without any adults to teach them how to behave” (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-delinquents/). Eventually these elephants became lonely, troubled and aggressive and became known as “the Delinquents.”
As I read this story, I thought how could people so easily miss the mark? Did game wardens really think they could kill off the adults in a population and not have any consequences? That everything would be ok? But when you think about it, as a society we are doing something very similar as we distance our children from traditional parenting and the influence of elders, teachers and preachers.
When a parent squanders or destroys influences of righteousness and holiness, how can that parent expect the child to grow to embrace these essentials? Sadly, it is often only when a child is in a crisis of rebellion that parents want the youth pastor, Sunday school teachers and pastor to save the day. But, unfortunately, after years of killing off their influence by badmouthing the church, picking and choosing which standards to enforce in the home, by not making church a priority; the time for intervention has long passed.
In Africa, there was no salvaging the delinquent elephants. Researchers tried everything they knew to try to retrain the creatures. They showed them love, worked to try and teach them how adult elephants behave. But ultimately, they became too dangerous, attacking more animals and even humans and had to be put down. We are afforded a window of opportunity – a time to plant the right seeds and make an investment in the lives of our children. But, too often we resist the authority in our lives and in the lives of our children. Let us not kill the voices of reason, the voices of wisdom, the voices of influence, the voices of sound doctrine, and of right living.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37).