Happy New Year everyone! I pray that your Christmastide (or other holiday celebration) has been a blessing. Today I want to do something rare for me: repost a meditation I’ve written for another organization. Periodically, I get asked by my church, St. Philip’s in the Hills in Tucson, to write for their daily meditation series called Daily Bread. Most recently, I was asked to write an entry for today, so I decided to share it here as well.
Today’s Hebrew Scripture lesson is special for me because it was the passage I used for my first formal exegesis in seminary. The prophet Elijah is worn out and weary, running in fear of his life. God has directed his actions, but they’ve gained him a powerful enemy: Queen Jezebel. Elijah flees into the wilderness because Jezebel has promised to kill him, as he killed the 450 prophets of her god, Baal.
Here’s what I notice today as I ponder this exchange between God and Elijah. First, Elijah needs more than a night of rest to recover from the slaughter. I wonder if he is suffering from PTSD, traumatized by the death of all those men, even if they were “the enemy.”
Second, God has two responses for Elijah. Initially, God reiterates God’s power through wind, earthquake, and fire. Yet scripture makes it clear that God is not in those powerful events. Events of power (such as the killing of 450 people) are not what ultimately matters. God is, instead, in the sheer silence that follows. Elijah recognizes that fact too. It’s when the sound and fury are over that he dares to come to the entrance of the cave to “stand before the Lord.”
Yet Elijah’s inner stance hasn’t changed. When God asks, “What’s up, Elijah?” he gives the same response he gave earlier. So, God changes tactics, perhaps understanding that Elijah is a man of action, and action is what will get him out of his depression. God gives Elijah additional marching orders and sends him on his way.
Sometimes, after momentous events in our lives, we need rest and sheer silence. At other times, we need something further to do. Christmastide is filled with momentous events (the birth of a child, a chorus of angels serenading lowly shepherds, the visit of wealthy men with astonishing gifts). Mary had moments of rest and silence when, as scripture tells us, she “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” But she and Joseph also had to follow additional marching orders, suddenly heading off into an unknown future in Egypt.
The only certainty is that God is with us through it all.