5 Reasons Why I Love Elijah
Often when I hear preachers mention the name Elijah, it's often in connection to words like suicidal, depressed, or arrogant. After reading Elijah's mountaintop experience, we seem to be incapable of understanding how it is possible for him to experience such lows. But I have always been drawn to Elijah's story. In fact, I find myself often leaning into it. Here are my top 5 reasons why I love Elijah!
#5. Elijah who? Elijah doesn't receive a long introduction, no generations of credibility, no story of his upbringing. And yet, the first time he pops on our Biblical radar, he is challenging the king! Doesn't it seem odd that this titan of prophetic victory has no history to explain how he became so great, so faithful, so brave? This is why I love him. He doesn't have an incredible backstory for me to live up to. Maybe... just maybe my own life story could produce someone as brave as Elijah, someone willing to speak truth to power- no matter the cost. (1 Kings 17:1)
#4. Elijah has a-t-t-i-t-u-d-e. This is the one part of Elijah's story that I have only recently come to appreciate, especially since I really have no desire to ridicule others nor to encourage self-mutilation. Truth be told, Elijah always seemed... mean! The way he challenged power, gloating over his enemy, his dramatics to make his own victory harder- these things always made me question Elijah's humility. Particularly as a Christian woman- I'm supposed to me meek and mild, humble and soft-spoken, right? Elijah reminds me- not so! The more I read his story, the more I appreciate his confidence, his certainty, his attitude. I am grateful for Elijah's example of being all in, his fearlessness, his hard spoken truth. I want to look a little different than Elijah, but sometimes I need his extreme tactics to encourage me to go farther, say more, do more than I otherwise would. (1 Kings 18:27)
#3. Elijah only needs a small amount of evidence- Just in case the victory on Mount Carmel wasn't dramatic enough, God also decides to end the drought that He initiated three years prior. Elijah makes the announcement that rain is coming long before there is a drop of water in the sky. In fact, there isn't anything in the sky, until Elijah's servant reports a cloud the size of a man's hand rising from the sea. Thats all the evidence Elijah needs to believe that the drought is over- one cloud, the size of a hand. Here is my confession: it takes a lot more evidence to convince me that God is about to do something great. How I wish that I could open myself up to the excitement, wonder, and faith that is possible before the outpouring comes. I often wait for the rain- the clouds seem like too much to hope for too soon. (1 Kings 18:41-44)
#2. He can run. I really admire people who run. (1 Kings 18:46)
#1. I understand his despair. Elijah suffers from what I call ministry depression. We often tag Elijah as arrogant, and perhaps he is, but Elijah doesn't just sit in the dirt shouting "woe is me" when he asks God to end his life. He actually tells us exactly why he has sunk so low. In Acts 19:4 Elijah tells God that he is no better than his ancestors. Now do you understand? Have you ever been on a Sankofa trip, hosted a workshop on racial reconciliation, or preached a sermon on community- and been met with anger? I don't mean confusion; I mean pure, unadulterated anger. Have you ever done your best to set up the perfect space to create safety, played the right music, set the right atmosphere so that you could be the one to make a difference and had it all fall apart? Have you ever claimed to be standing on the shoulders of your mentors, your professors, your ancestors only to discover that you, too, couldn't create the lasting structure, couldn't inspire the powers that be, couldn't make a difference? Call me crazy, but I love Elijah's honesty. I love that he admits to the hope we all have within us- that we can and will make a difference. And when Elijah comes to believe that he hasn't- despite the fire and the rain, there is not much more left for him to give. This was no failed workshop- this should've changed everything- changed the hearts of the king and queen, changed the course of a nation. I'm so glad that God cares for Elijah, providing food, drink, rest. I'm so glad that God reminds us that He is not only in the big, giant, miraculous activities, but in a still small voice, too.
I know this post isn't exclusively about multiculturalism or justice or community. No matter what ministry we each have been called to, I think we can find something special in Elijah's story. I think we can be inspired by his courage, but we can also find our own humanity and perhaps give ourselves permission to experience God's still, small voice.