Sunday, April 29, 2012

I Kings 19: A Tornado of Emotions

When Elijah reached Horeb he hid in a cave.  It was only then - 40 days later - that God asked him, "Elijah, what are you doing here?"  Elijah spewed forth an answer drenched in anger and frustration.  God told him to go stand on the mountain for He was about to pass by.  Elijah did so, and God proceeded to send a terrible wind that shattered rocks, an earthquake, and a fire, but He didn't pass by in any of those.  No, God appeared in the form of a gentle whisper.  He then asked Elijah a second time, "What are you doing here?"  Elijah gave the same response, word for word.  Or did he?

Elijah's first answer was filled with frustration and anger.  He let God have it, so to speak, and the underlying text is "Where were You?" and maybe even "I'm angry with You, God!"

I'd like to think that God appreciated Elijah's honesty.  Just as we present a carefully-scripted self to others, I think we often present to God only one aspect of ourselves, rather than our whole self.  We put on an act, in other words. But not Elijah, and God responded by sending a series of powerful, natural disasters. Yet if God only appeared in the gentle whisper, why did He send the wind, earthquake and fire? 

I used to think that God did it to display His power and to remind Elijah with Whom he was speaking, as if to say, "I could blast you if I wanted, but I won't... at least for now."  I don't think that anymore.  I think God - in a strange show of compassion - was giving a physical manifestation to the turmoil of emotions that seethed inside Elijah.  I think God was entering into Elijah's emotions and validating them, giving Elijah space to voice them completely.

Then came the gentle whisper, and we finally see the real emotions behind Elijah's anger: hurt, fear, rejection.  "God, where were You? I did everything You asked!"  Elijah finished expressing the intensity of his emotions, the physical world responded in solidarity, and now he cries out in vulnerable humanity, "I'm hurt. I'm afaid. I'm alone."

Only there, in the honesty of a softened and raw heart, do Elijah and God have a meaningful dialogue.


Elisabeth said...

Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful!

Unknown said...

I am reminded of the "deceptive cadence" as explained by Benjamin Zander...

wakeupcowboys said...

I like that, "unknown."