As part of a process of spiritual direction, I’ve been focusing on scriptures about the love of God, and for a couple of weeks I keep returning to 1 Kings 19: 1-9. It’s a familiar story from my childhood Sunday school days about the prophet Elijah fleeing for his life from an angry queen Jezebel. Afraid and discouraged, Elijah runs alone into the wilderness, collapses under a bush and prays to die.
“I have had enough, Lord,” Elijah moans.
I expect many readers can relate to the prophet’s distress. At various times I can, too, for sure. Feeling hopeless and dispirited are all too common parts of our human experience, especially when we’re caught in the throes of addiction or other traumas.
This season I’m touched by God’s reaction to Elijah’s anguish. While he slept, an angel quietly prepared a loaf of fresh bread and baked it over hot coals, then gently awakened Elijah and invited him to eat and to drink from a jug of water. The weary, fearful prophet did so (perhaps believing he was dreaming) and went back to sleep.
A second time the angel returned, touched Elijah, and again encouraged him to eat and drink “because the journey is too much for you.” The prophet accepted this sustenance and was strengthened.
I’m moved by the encouragement of the angel’s presence and the provision of this simple meal. I can almost feel the tenderness of the angel’s touch against Elijah’s rounded shoulder. I can smell the warm bread and feel the splash of the refreshing water. The angel knew that Elijah’s need was deeper than the shattered man realized, so the angel came back a second time and urged Elijah to fortify himself with more.
Most of the time I’m looking for a dramatic rescue from some pressing situation. I’m watching for the wind, earthquake or fire that are described a few verses later in 1 Kings 19, and I miss God’s quiet provisions that come in the touch of an angel’s wing or the whisper of a still small voice (verses 11-12).
I’m learning that most of the strength for the journey (that sometimes feels “too much”) comes from the simple daily bread of kindnesses offered and received. When I am aware and grateful, these quiet gifts bring the strength needed for that moment.
Marnie C. Ferree