I’ve always been one to hear from “God” in the whisper moments of life. There is a story in I Kings 19 where Elijah had been through some very rough stuff– how’s that for a deep theological description? Anyway, he went into the wilderness, sat under a broom tree, and prayed to die, “I’ve had enough Lord, take my life.” An angel woke him up and told him to eat and drink, so he did. He gained strength and then walked 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb where he went to sleep in a cave.
Let’s stop there and breathe that in….
Has hardship, challenge, pain, or trauma in your life ever caused you to think for a moment, “I’ve had enough. Take me now?” When Mattie died in 2014, I learned how to walk through grief. It took a ton of work, but I was finally walking. But it didn’t stop there. This past year brought with it more pain and more challenges. It has been one thing after the other to be honest. If I shared it all, you’d probably say to me, “Oh no, that’s just too much. You didn’t need more!” But there has been more, and my already-suffering-self that was trying so hard to heal and grow, was kicked down. So Elijah’s journey feels a little bit like mine.
I got up. I ate and drank. I kept walking. It’s been a long 40 days and 40 nights so to speak and I know what it’s like to crawl into a cave.
Now back to the story…
A voice came and asked Elijah what he was doing in the cave. Let me take some liberties with his response and make it mine for a moment. (His is in verse 10.)
“I have loved you. I have served you. Everything is falling apart. My son is gone. I was just staring to rise and then you thought I could handle more. It’s too much. I feel like I’m going to die under the weight of it all.” -Me
Elijah was then told to go stand on the mountain because God was going to pass by.
A powerful storm came. It tore the mountains and shattered the rocks.
“But the Lord was not in the wind.”
Then there was an earthquake.
“But the Lord was not in the earthquake.”
Next came a fire.
“But the Lord was not in the fire.”
And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
And Elijah heard God in the whisper.
Now back to me.
I’ve come out of my cave (at least on most days I am; some days I go back in and hide). I’m standing on the mountain, and I’m feeling the storm- the wind, the quake, the fire.
I’m still waiting for the whisper.
Maybe you may have never experienced feeling distant from God. Maybe your hard times have caused you to grow closer. Please don’t judge because mine has been shaken. I know the assumptions and the quickly shot out platitudes, “Well if your faith would have been stronger in the first place” or “God never promised this life would be easy, we have to trust Him.” Have you read Lamentations or the book of Psalms? Wise men and women have wondered and wrestled over these things for hundreds of years. It’s not just weak who struggle with their faith in times of crisis, it could be you one day. It is me.
But I’m actually writing for those who are standing with me on their own shaking mountain just wondering if they will ever see and feel God again. I’m with you, my friend. I see the dust on your face, the wounds to your feet, I see the pain in your eyes. I’m watching the storm that surrounds you. And me.
If I could hold my faith in the palm of my hand right now, it really would look like a mustard seed. I’m sitting here in the awkward tension of knowing what I have believed, even what I have experienced, yet being so unsure of it all now. Please do not worry about me. Don’t feel bad for me. This is part of my journey. It is necessary and important work for my soul. Layers and layers are being peeled back and I only want to be left with the truth of my identity. My faith is not weak because I stand on this mountain of wonder, waiting to hear. Many have gone before me who have wrestled with their faith during times of intense pain. I am not alone in this journey, yet it is one I have to take on my own.
I believe that one day I will hear that whisper. I want to believe that it will be soon but right now it is radio silence on this journey of mine.
Things fall apart and they come together. That is how it works. Pema Chödrön says it this way; things “come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
It’s okay for things to break. It’s okay to feel broken. It’s miserably uncomfortable but I am seeking the “coming together” and no longer fearing what it may look like. I’m not afraid of it feeling different than before. I’m actually certain that it will. I can tell you what I expect. I expect for my heart to settle into a place of strength, hope and belief that is deeper and freer and more wide-open than before.
Madeline L’Engle wrote,
“Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of the mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God and not in God himself.”
And with that, what I have been feeling for months is that I am okay. This is okay. This struggle, this uncertainty, this doubt, this despair can only do one thing. This mountain called “faith” that feels like it is crumbling will settle into a new terrain where my feet can tread and where my heart will come alive.
And deep inside my heart, I will be whole.
For now, I am waiting for the whisper as I learn to sit in the silence.
Photo credit: LilaCheck via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND