Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Elijah and Hiding Out in Caves

Note: This was originally posted in my Facebook notes on February 26, 2012.

Photo credit: http://www.revelation-today.com/_ElijChar2.jpg
I've heard it said that there is no gray area when it comes to faith. You either believe or you don't. You either take the Bible to heart as truth in its entirety or you don't. There are certain things you can't find middle ground on, and faith in God and in His word is one of them. The New Testament, especially the gospels, I have always taken as truth. But so many things and events in that Book, especially the events that defy logic, I had a hard time taking.

That was the case until last week.

For a long time, the Bible and everything I read in it all had the element of something surreal and mythical to me. I knew in my mind that everything I read there is true, but somehow, it wasn't true for me. I believed in salvation, I believed in grace and mercy, I knew in my heart they were all real, but the other things? Like the chariots of fire, the Red Sea dividing, the sun going back in the sky, and fire raining down from heaven... somehow, all of those things were things I would associate more with a movie than with actual events.

Elijah's story is one of those Bible stories I had a hard time accepting as real. I mean, really, chariots of fire coming down from heaven and sweeping him away? Ravens feeding him in the desert? It seems more like scenes from a sci-fi or inidie film. I had no doubt whatsoever that Elijah performed all those miracles and great deeds to make the Israelites realize their mistakes, to help them repent and turn back to God. But somehow, the other parts of the story (along with so many other parts of the Bible) I could not really grasp.

Compared to the other great men of the Bible like Moses, Isaiah, David and the others, Elijah is relatively in the minor leagues. He occupies a few chapters (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2), and unlike the previous names mentioned who are almost always the first names to be brought up whenever influence and impact on spiritual life is talked about, Elijah is not someone I hear often. So why am I writing about a minor prophet, when I have all the other famous big shots to choose from? Simple enough. Elijah resonates with me. Reading about his life is like looking into a mirror.

Elijah started out on fire. God called him, and he followed. He preached, called the people to repent, and challenged Ahab's and Jezebel's diviners because their acts of sorcery and divination were offensive to God. Ahab and Jezebel were leading the Israelites to sin, and God sent Elijah to turn the people from their wickedness. And Elijah was doing such an awesome job... until Jezebel ordered every prophet of God killed. The man of God who was calling fire down from heaven and challenging every man who dared to call "god" anyone else aside from the Lord God Almighty was suddenly turning tail and running scared. 

He ran. Yes, a mighty man of God, who called fire from heaven and preached courageously, ran. He ran to the desert and prayed that he would die. In his frustration, he sat under a tree and wished that God would take his life already because he was so hopeless and he felt that it was all so pointless. In his exhaustion, he fell asleep. You would think that after that, God would discipline him or something like that because he left right in the middle of duty. Instead, God sent His angel to give him nourishment. But still, he did not go back. When he regained his strength from what the angel fed him, he proceeded to a cave and sulked. 

In that cave, when Elijah was down, out, licking his wounds and feeling sorry for himself, God spoke to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

God asked him that not once, but twice. For the God of heaven and earth to meet you right there while you are busy hiding in your cave, shutting out every one and everything, feeling sorry for yourself and lamenting just about everything in your life, is something that shakes you to the very foundations of your being, and it changes your life.

When the God of the universe Himself goes down to your cave and asks you what you are doing there, that is not something you ignore. No matter how deep you may be in sorrow, anguish, or lament, when God himself meets you in your moment of deepest despair and bleakest longing, you just know that He is not done with you yet. 

"What are you doing here, Giane?"

I have been Elijah so many times in my life. We both started out on fire. And then, in the snap of a finger, I was derailed faster than I could figure out how or why that happened. And before I knew it, I was running hard and fast and I was slinking back further and further into a cave I had fashioned for myself, which the enemy made all the more inviting by enticing me with all kinds of offers and things that I thought, at that time, were perfect. 

I spent years in that cave. I thought I would never get out. I was lost, desperate, devoid of hope. I was getting self-destructive, I was destroying myself in so many ways and I knew, deep down, it was only a matter of time before the enemy won over me. I was drowning, and in all likelihood, I was going to die (figuratively).

And then one day, Father decided that I had had enough. He decided that it was time for me to get out of that cave.

"What are you doing here, Giane?"

I made excuses. I fought, I struggled. I tried ignoring Him. 

"What are you doing here, Giane?"

Like I said, when the Lord of all creation asks You that, you may choose not to hear Him, but He will get to you. When you are chosen, one way or another, He will get to you. And got to me, He did. 

The moment I got out, I was enlisted for service. I was thrown into the frontlines without so much as an initiation. The first battle was the initiation. I have not looked back since. Oh yes, I have fallen, slipped, messed up, and bungled up things many many times since getting out of that cave. But I have never been allowed back there. He has made sure of that by giving me "watchers", people who serve alongside with me in the field, to remind me during those times that I forget and get lost.

There are days when the cave still tempts me. It's a lot more comfortable there, actually. I still have my days when I retreat, but so far, I have not gone back to that cave. I know that when I do, I will hear Him ask me again, "What are you doing here?" 

Just like He proved with Elijah, I can run and hide, but I will never be able to run far enough from Him that He will never be able to reach me, and there is nowhere I can hide that He won't be able to find me.

I thank God every day that He loved me enough to ask me what the heck I was doing in that cave in the first place. I thank Him that He loved me enough to get me out of there. I thank Him everyday that He uses one as unworthy as me for His purposes. 

All that's missing now in my life is the arrival of the chariots of fire. :) that, and calling fire down from heaven. :)