I have been wondering about how much I have processed all the emotions from the last 18 months and whether I have learned all the lessons God has been teaching me through this crisis. I have realised that this is very much an on-going process.
I have recently been reading a book by Brené Brown called Rising Strong a book about learning through crisis. Brené Brown is a great one for metaphors and creative use of language. She writes about three phases in her rising strong process:
The Reckoning – where we acknowledge our emotion and accept our weakness.
The Rumble – where we get honest about and question the stories, we tell ourselves about who we are and about how we perceive what others and even God are thinking about us.
The Revolution – where with humility we write a new ending to our stories – we accept a truer version of a story about who God is, who we are and what we are called to do.
Quite clearly, Elijah went through those three phases in this story. What amazes me about this story is the transformation we see in Elijah…
At the beginning of this story, Elijah was praying he might die. By the end, we see him rising strong. I think it was a very different Elijah and a much more effective Elijah who we see at the end of the story.
Elijah’s reckoning took place in the wilderness. I really notice how tenderly the angel of the Lord dealt with Elijah giving him chance to recover – interestingly, although you can get the impression from the text that Elijah only spent a couple of days in the wilderness. I was reading recently that commentators think that it was probably a much longer time. We have been talking about our own need to recover as individuals and as a church community.
For Elijah, his Recovery was essential for him to refocus on and be renewed into the purposes of God.
Once Elijah had recovered, he journeyed to Mount Horeb. Mt Horeb was a place of pilgrimage where people went to meet with God. There, Elijah experienced a stillness in which he held a conversation with God. It was in this conversation that Elijah rumbled with all his emotions.
This rumble required Elijah to acknowledge his emotion and accept his weakness. Acknowledging weakness requires vulnerability. But if we can acknowledge weakness it can lead to a beautiful humility. Its humility that makes us open to truly listening to God. The key to vulnerability is a simple trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness.
In the rumble, God challenged Elijah. He asked, ‘what are you doing here Elijah?’ Elijah had clearly become a bit self-obsessed and taken his eyes off the purposes of God. And then God renewed Elijah into a sense of purpose.
During the Rumble, God asked Elijah to ‘go back the way he came’. As Elijah did so, he was to be reminded of how God had called him in the past. In many respects the essential call of God on Elijah – to be a prophet – had not changed. But how this call would be worked out would change.
Like Elijah, our essential call remains the same:
· To make disciples
· To plant churches
· To play our part in transforming communities
But I think we are recognising that the way we approach realising this vision may be different going forwards.
I think there were five things that were to be different about Elijah following this story, and I wonder if any of these apply to us… Elijah went from….
1) A ministry that revolved around him and the force of his personality – to a pattern of living where he looked for how God was working and God’s invitation to partner with him.
2) A lifestyle which led to exhaustion and discouragement – to a deeper more prayerful connection with God with a much clearer understanding of his role. I can only imagine that his personal rhythms and boundaries were much better.
3) An isolated feeling of being alone, to one where he opened his eyes and saw the 7,000 who would work with him. I think we have all been anxious about how many people are with us post-lockdown but is God inviting us to look and see the faithful remnant he has called to be with us.
4) Doing it all himself, to one where he anointed leaders who would continue the work of God.
5) He identified a successor in whom he would heavily invest.
I wonder if any of those apply to us.