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Strength for the Journey

September 1, 2016

First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God. – Julian of Norwich

 

 

There is a story in the Hebrew Scriptures about Elijah, the prophet.

 

He had a really - really - triumphant day . . . Until a very powerful woman threatened him with death.

 

Elijah fled. In fear. Actually, he ran. Fast. And far into the wilderness. Eventually, he sat down under a lone broom tree and asked that he might die. And then he slept.

 

In time, a divine messenger awakened him and, pointing to a jug of water and a cake of fresh-baked bread, told him to "get up and eat." Following more sleep, the scene was repeated. Then, on the strength gained in that space, Elijah journeyed on into an encounter with God that gave direction for going forward.  

 

Elijah’s unfolding journey with God (1 Kings 18 & 19), tells a familiar human story of rise, fall, and reorientation.  See the movements:

 

Ascent. A faceoff. A victory! A drought ends, for “the hand of the Lord was on Elijah” (1 Kings 18:46).

 

Desolation. First the threat. Then fear. And flight. Elijah, in despair, “asked that he might die” (1 Kings 19:4) . . . It is in this desolate space that an angel extends hospitality, and Elijah receives strength to go on (1 Kings 19:8).

 

Direction. In a mountain cave, Elijah encounters God and grapples with a question: “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:9-21). By his answer, we discover that Elijah is stuck. Yet, in the silence of that place, God gives - and Elijah receives - Direction. The way

 

Consider how this story speaks into our present life. Focus, in particular, on that space in the middle, where Elijah, depleted, receives strength for the way forward. He went, you see, on the strength of that food to his encounter with God. I invite you into two aspects of this space:

 

Elijah’s Disciplines: He prays, sleeps, eats; and repeats. That is all. Sometimes, this -- simply this -- is exactly what is needed, “Otherwise the journey will be too much” (1 Kings 19:7).

 

The Angel’s Hospitality helped Elijah cross the threshold of divine encounter. Such hospitality is a gift of spiritual direction. Focused on your life as a journey of spiritual discovery, direction offers a safe, welcoming space in which you can slow down, breathe, reflect on your story, and receive sustenance for your soul, so that you can continue on in your unfolding life with God. 

 

This is the process whereby Elijah discerns God’s way forward and acts. May you find in his journey strength for yours.

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