Simply being zealous doesn’t impress God

When Elijah woke up, he saw an angel. Exactly what a prophet who asks to die wants to see. But he wasn’t dead. So Elijah decided to go to the mountain of God. He needed to talk to God.

At the beginning of Elijah’s journey, an angel fixed him breakfast. Sometimes we are just hungry, and God knows that. Sometimes we just need sleep. And God knows that.

But sometimes, even after the breakfast, we are still on a journey. For Elijah, at the end of his journey is the mountain of God. In between was forty days spent alone.

stepsThat’s what the life of following Jesus feels like. A supernatural start. A future hope. And in between is wilderness. The wild places past the last homely house.

I suppose that God could have talked to Elijah along the way. But sometimes we have to travel a long way to be alone with God. Sometimes it takes forty days for our frustration to become clear.

By the end of the journey, standing on the mountain of God, Elijah’s lament had clarified.

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” (1 Kings 19:10)

It’s possible for us to spend our entire Lenten journey working on our speech for God. We keep track of when the prayer feels mechanical. When we are hungry because of following God, and the relationships we are praying for are still messed up, and the wisdom we want for our future still isn’t available. Day after day of hunger. Day after day of silence. Day after day we distill our lament until it fits on a 3×5 card, or can be recited on an elevator ride.

God says, “So why are you here?”

And we say, “I have been very zealous for you. Everyone else is rejecting you and killing your people. I’m the only one left. And now they are after me. When are you going to pay attention to me?”


From Lent for Non-Lent People