Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at some stories from the Hebrew Scriptures - what Christians call the Old Testament. These stories are rich with wisdom and lessons and themes.
If you saw the post on Facebook earlier this week, you may have already gathered that a shortened version of today’s theme is “don’t underestimate the power of a nap and a snack.”
I officiated a wedding last month of family friends of mine and the couple knows this life lesson. Literally, in their vows, they tweaked what I had given them to include “I promise to not get angry with you until I have asked if you are hungry.” They are two people who are very active and very dependent on regular food intake….so, they know the reality of being hangry (hungry & angry).
I often have heard today’s Scripture story preached with a theme of listening for God in the stillness. I still agree that’s an important theme from this passage, but I love looking at it in the broader context of what Elijah had just experienced and how he was essentially hangry - he was wiped out and exhausted.
To be fair, Elijah had just come from an intense experience - he had challenged prophets of the god Baal - he even asked if their god wasn’t responding because it was in the restroom! (true story - look it up in 1 Kings 18) So, when Elijah’s God, the God we worship, showed up and the other prophets died, the people weren’t so happy. We read that Jezebel threatened to chase Elijah down and kill him. I’d say that’s a pretty intense day at work!
Even though Elijah was able to show the mighty power of God, he felt he had failed to continue carrying God’s message. He felt he was alone in God’s mission. He ran to the desert. He was tired. He was weary. He was done. So, he laid down to sleep.
Enter God’s messenger: “here’s some food. Go and stand by the mountainside and experience me in the stillness (not the earthquake, not the wind, not the fire). Now breathe.”
God sent him a message of “nap, eat, breathe” because Elijah’s job wasn’t finished yet. This wasn’t so that Elijah could then remain in a constant cycle of nap, eat, breathe….the final part of that cycle is “Go!” In this case, “Go and anoint Hazael to be King.”
How often do we need to take a lesson from Elijah - to nap, eat, and breath - before we go? How often do we feel we are alone in carrying out God’s ministry - feel weary and in need of running to the desert? How often do we simply feel defeated by the world and are “finished?” How often do we need to nap, eat, breathe, experience God...so that we are prepared to then go?
We need to take heed from the story of Elijah so that we refocus on the desire we feel God has given us. Much like Elijah who responded: “all my passion has been devoted to the Eternal God of heavenly armies,” we need to reclaim our passion for doing what we feel is most meaningful in this world.
I believe when we do this, we refocus on where we feel God’s presence...particularly when we get passed the earthquakes and fires and are in the stillness of God’s presence. For some of us, this comes through nature walks or service projects. For me, I really love seeing bonds created between people (insert plug for fellowship events like Dinners for Eight)…when life gets hectic for me, it helps me to refocus on bonds among friends or seeing people here connect, to refocus on those things that matter.
How often do we need to remember that other people may need to nap, eat, and breathe? Like the couple who married last month, can we vow to consider if other people are hungry before getting angry with them? To consider if they are one step away from running to the desert?
To have the time and luxury of stopping to do these things is not necessarily a luxury everyone has. Think of a single parent, perhaps, with three kids, working two jobs. Not a ton of time to stop and breathe. Think of a person who is without a home and steady income...it may be hard to peacefully sleep and find food to eat.
This is why it’s important that we have compassion when we encounter other people. Many of you may have seen this short video I’m about to show. It’s made by the Cleveland Clinic - to show how important it is to consider what is going on in other people.
The benefits of Elijah’s lesson I believe are far-reaching. More mindfulness. More compassion. More cooperation. Perhaps less violence among us. Better connection with God. More passion and energy for reaching our goals and the ways we can spread God’s message.
Friends, when we feel defeated in life, for whatever reason, learn from Elijah’s story. Don’t underestimate the power of naps, snacks, and breathing. Listen for God and then, GO! Go after wherever God leads you!
Scripture: 1 Kings 19:1-15