By Karen Treat
I love the story of Elijah in I Kings 18-19. Elijah is the prophet who takes down all the false prophets in the area and then flees for his life because Queen Jezebel wanted him dead. Those were her prophets. How dare he kill them? The disheartened Elijah runs away to find a place he won’t be threatened.
Imagine his discouragement? Elijah did the work he was asked to do by God. Now he is alone. Seemingly abandoned. Afraid. Who is he now? Doesn’t look like prophecy is working for him. Why even keep living? These are the questions he asks.
Along the way to finding a safe haven, Elijah lays down under a broom tree. He’s exhausted. Here he sleeps for two days. Except when he is woken by an angel who feeds him. Twice she wakes him. After what seems like enough rest and renewal, the angel sends Elijah on to Mt. Horeb. While on the mountain Elijah experiences an earthquake, a great wind and a cloud of fire. Whew!
After all the chaos that met with Elijah’s emotions, a sound of sheer silence arrives. Elijah realizes God is present.
Elijah reluctantly goes to meet God at the edge of the cave where he has been hiding. God asks “why are you here?”
I don’t think I would like that question. It’s pretty clear why he’s there. I think the question should be from Elijah, “Where were you God all this time?”
After letting Elijah lament, God tells him to go on to another town where he will find the help and the support he needs. Elijah will find himself a new vocation and lots of people to be with him to continue to do the work. God was here and will be there. Elijah just needed stop long enough to see and hear.
I see many people around me in these places. I have been there. Places of despair and uncertainty. It’s in our world, it’s in our communities. It is in our families and friends. God? How did we end up here? How did I end up in this place? How can I go on?
It is in these places, we can sense God’s presence. Not in the chaos. But under the broom tree. The sheer silence. And, the people in our midst. God is here.
Where is God? As it was for Elijah, it is for us. In the dancing of the autumn leaves, in the stillness of our breath, as we shut our eyes in prayer at the closing of the day and in the people who grace our path offering a helpful moment.
God is here. God will be there.