What is God calling you from? This is not a question many of us are used to asking; much more commonly, we ask what God is calling us to. But, upon reading today’s lessons, it’s the first question that stuck out to me: What is God calling you from?
Elijah has fled from his oppressors, fearing for his life. He finds a cave, a hiding place, a refuge, and it’s difficult for me to imagine just how comforting that must have been for him. But soon after, God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Elijah explains his predicament, and God listens, but then tells him to come out of the cave.
Immediately, the scene changes to one of destruction and upheaval. Whipping, wind, quaking earth, roaring fire: it must have been terrifying. But these terrors are only a prelude. The din of destruction dies down, and in the calm and the quiet, in the silence, Elijah encounters God. He shields his face with his mantle, because he knows this silence is holy ground.
God is frequently described as our refuge. This is true, and the rest and safety of God is a magnificent gift. But God always seeks our growth, our nourishment, our conversion. When our resting places have become places of fear, complacency, or stagnation, God comes to us in the depths of our hearts, our inner hiding places, our caves, and asks, “What are you doing here?” He calls us from these caves, and that experience can be destructive, disquieting, discomforting. But like a chick struggling out of its shell, or a child being weaned from his mother’s breastmilk, God thrusts us into this destruction for our growth, for our good. What was once a sure foundation has become a stumbling block, and God sends the wind, the earthquake, and the fire to shatter it.
But this destruction is only a passing thing. Afterward, the noise dies down, and it is calm; it is quiet. And there, in the silence, God waits to greet us.
Elijah donned his mantle to shield his face. When we are ready, God will call us forth from that comfort, that protection, that last cave. We will be utterly exposed to the bitter wind, the trembling earth, the burning fire. But these will pass. And in the calm, the quiet, the silence, God will greet us, and we will see him in his full glory, face to face.
So I ask you again: what is God calling you from?
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