Friday, April 30, 2010

An Open Letter to the Prophet Elijah

Dear Elijah,

Like many Christians, I greatly admire you. Your exploits and your gumption are the stuff of legend. As I read the exciting stories of your career as a prophet, I find myself unable to imagine what it would have been like even to witness what you did, much less to actually do it. You are like a Christian superhero—a man who accepted his calling, stood up to corrupt powers, and ultimately got carried off to heaven in a whirlwind. What a story! What a life! I can't tell you what a huge fan I am.

When I was first introduced to you in 1 Kings 17, you were already a prophet. You seemed so bold and confident, rebuking the evil king. But I don't know the story before that. When did you know you were a prophet? How did you receive your calling? Was there a burning bush or some sort of miracle? Was there a voice or a dream or a vision? Did you just know deep in your heart what God wanted you to become? Did you ever doubt your destiny? Were you afraid? Did you wonder sometimes if you were going crazy? How did you transform into the strong man of God that I met in 1 Kings 17? Was it easy, like following the path of least resistance, or did you struggle with it? Did you sleep at all the night before you confronted the king? Did your hands shake afterward? You look so stoic and calm there on the page, but I wonder what was going on inside your mind and your heart.

Later, after you had prayed successfully for the resurrection of the widow's son and had confronted Ahab again, you had a difficult period. Ahab and Jezebel sent a lot of goons after you, and you were on the run. You were frustrated then, and you prayed to God that you might die. And yet, in the midst of your fear and confusion and doubts, when God sent an angel to you, you listened and obeyed. I wonder sometimes if you argued at all with the angel about the raw deal you were getting or if you really were as absolutely obedient and virtuous as the story portrays you. Did you wonder during that long journey if God really cared about you or if you were just a pawn in a crazy supernatural game? Did you question whether following God's plan was the best choice for you? Did you worry that you might be discarded in the end when God was done using you? If you were afraid or disenchanted, it didn't show.

Did you ever wonder why God chose you to do all these things? Did you ever sit around wistfully remembering a time when your life was normal? Or did you feel a thrill of exhilaration every time you rebuked Ahab or performed a miracle, as if you were born to be this fearsome prophet? Did you want this life for yourself or did you long for a quieter existence? Sometimes I think you might have been the kind of no-nonsense person who didn't have time for such questions. Perhaps you never questioned what God asked of you and simply went with it. If not, you sure were good at hiding the conflict within you from everyone else—they were all cowed by your overwhelming air of authority. 

I don't know how you did it. I don't know how you kept your cool in front of Ahab or in the midst of all those people on the mountain when you were calling them out over their idolatry. I don't know how you retained your sanity in the midst of such crazy happenings. Sometimes it must have seemed like a dream or even a nightmare. Still, you held on. You did better than hold on—you excelled. In the end you were honored with a magnificent departure that has never been replicated. Your faith and obedience were rewarded, and you went down in history as one of Israel's most famous prophets, second only to Moses himself. You even got to be with Jesus during the Transfiguration.

Elijah, I wish I were more like you. Your story is one of inspiring success in the midst of incredible hardship. Your life was difficult and scary sometimes, but you persevered and prevailed. I wish I knew the secrets of your success. I wish I had your courage and your conviction. Like Elisha, I wish I could inherit a double portion of your spirit. Maybe someday when I finally make it to Heaven, I'll meet up with you and we can compare notes. In the meantime, I guess I'm on my own—which is to say that I'm with God, just like you were. He looked after you all right, so I expect that I'll be OK too.

Love, Kayla

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