January 21, 2009

The Cave

'[Elijah] wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Eli'jah?" He said, "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." And the LORD said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus...' -1 Kings 19:13-15

This, of course, is the end of the beautifully familiar story where Elijah is searching for word of the Lord in the wind and the earthquake and the fire and finally hears it in the still, small voice. But today, I am caught up in the cave.

I suppose we all have days like this, but when I have one, I feel alone. I want to be alone, in my cave. Elijah is running from evil Queen Jezebel who is more than a little put-out that
Elijah has destroyed all the prophets of her favorite god, Baal. Elijah, meanwhile, is tired of his thankless prophet job, so he does what any sensible person whose life was on the line would do -- he runs away. He goes quite a distance and finds a nice cave and along the way sleeps for a good long time (with an angelically provided lunch on the side).

Caves make me think not just of Elijah, but of hermits and millenium cults. They are for people who want to be left alone.

I feel like that sometimes too. It's just plain easier, isn't it? Other people can be so demanding. They ask me to do things when I'd rather sit and read the paper and drink my coffee. They have opinions that I don't always like. They praise me for things I think are lousy and ignore my great achievements. Living in my head promises to be so much easier. Like an old Joni Mitchell song says, "Nobody calling me up for favors, and no one's future to decide." I get to be the god of my little private dominion. Like Jezebel and her Baals.

But God says in response to Elijah's perfectly valid complaint: Get back to work. No hanging out in the cave. You've had a rest, now there are things to do.

I may have some very good reasons to want to stay in the cave, but, like Elijah, in the end I am here so I can outrun the queen and her Baals and hear the voice of God. And he says, Get back to work.

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