"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ditch Days

He was tired and afraid. He was discouraged and ready to "be done" with the work. Elijah was a man just like us, James tells us (James 5:17). In 1 Kings 19, we see this man-Elijah very clearly portrayed. He was having a "ditch-day", as we call it in our home. Elijah was ready to ditch it and be done.

I feel that way sometimes, too.

There are days when I am so done with ministry and life. Not that I am ready to die--- I'm not. It isn't a place where I don't want to live anymore... not at all. It is just a place where I want to live VERY differently. You know, the place where I don't have to clean my house ever again--- someone else does that for me! Or, it is when I am ready to stay in my pajama's all day, watch movies or sleep, and eat candy non-stop. Or, I am ready to NEVER write another email again, or talk deeply with another soul. I am ready to throw my computer out the window. Or, it is those days that I am ready to move to the mountains of Montana, buy a cabin, and just sit ...and rock... and rock on the porch day-in and day-out. There are days when I feel fully "done" with all responsibilities, all cares, or even all God-given ministry.

I think this is the place that Elijah found himself in I Kings 19. Elijah was a man just like us.

He runs away. He escapes. In our home, we call these "ditch days" and we laugh (and sometimes share openly) about our "escape plans". Some people have escape plans that include an island in Greece. For others it is the little house in a provincial town in the Bible belt. Whatever it may look like, it seems that most people in full time God-work have an escape plan.

The beauty of our good, kind and compassionate (slow to anger) Father is that He knows this about us. Who is like Him? Almighty, All powerful and, yet, so full of love. His mercies are new every morning! His love pursues us, follows us... runs after us as we escape (or even just "plan" to escape).

Almighty God ran after Elijah. Elijah runs, collapses and falls asleep... and God is right there with Him. Elijah wakes up from his place of exhaustion and is fed by the hand of God. It says angels put bread right next to him. Amazing. God knows Elijah needs food. Our Father knows. And, then Elijah collapses in exhaustion again. At each point along Elijah's "ditch day" journey, God is pursuing Elijah. Feeding him, letting him sleep, protecting him and then talking to him.

Why are you here, Elijah? It is as if God just wants to hear Elijah's heart. Tell me, Elijah, tell me what is in your heart... why are you running? Why are you here? Father gently probes, pokes and inquires. No judgement. No condemnation. In fact, just a simple question and a simple piece of bread. Elijah answers God's question twice... the same way--- I have worked and worked, God and NOW I am all alone!

At the end of this "ditch-day", God gives Elijah two amazing gifts. First, God takes Elijah to a place... a quiet place, where the Father reveals Himself. He shows up! God, Himself, pulls back the veil just a bit and whispers His very real Presence. What a gift! This, in and of itself, is enough to propel Elijah to move on, to keep going and to pick up the responsibilities again. But, God is not done pouring out His compassionate love! God then gives Elijah a friend, a comrade-in-arms, a co-worker to carry the load. Father gives him Elisha. Both help and hope are given in this new friend. Help in the now and hope that the work will go on. God tells Elijah with His very Presence that He is not alone. And, then, to top it off, Father God gives Elijah a co-worker. You are NOT alone, Elijah!

Ditch days are real and inevitable. But, in God we find mercy, compassion and love. He pursues us and gives sleep, food, a quiet place, His Presence, His Voice and friends... co-laborers.

Thank you, Father for Your amazing, unfailing love.
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