What are you doing here?
In the story of Elijah there is a time when he finds himself in a cave hiding from the death threats of an angry Queen who is intent on killing him because he has single-handedly engineered the demise of her Baal and Asherah prophets. Elijah was a prophet who revelled in the confrontational nature of good v evil moments, happy to proclaim God as more punitive than restorative. This view of the divine comes with its own set of challenges especially when the power he possessed to dispense judgement in that moment was not able to protect him from the royal wrath of the monarchy.
Walter Brueggemann, an Old Testament scholar sums it up when he says that most of the biblical prophets started out punitive but ended up presenting the heart of God as more restorative. The retaliatory and reactive nature of a correctional perspective can never fully accomplish a redemptive outcome.
While in the cave he hears a voice which says, ‘What are you doing here’? This is not so much a geographical enquiry but a multi-layered question that goes to the heart of what has led him to this place and what needs to change in order to move him into the next chapter of his narrative. 'What are you doing here?' is the kind of invasive question that we need to be continually confronted with, especially if we are going to reinvent ourselves in some new way.
The cave is analogous to the dark night of the soul, where we face our shadow self and find the light of a new awakening that will lead us into the next permutation of our becoming. Elijah's fears and insecurities were suddenly exposed to the scrutiny of a new hopefulness that was about to whisper in to his life. Whispers are the wind of change that breathes' into our existence so that our legacy can continue on in some new productive form.
The name of Elisha is whispered into Elijah’s consciousness. Elisha means 'God is my salvation’, a stark reminder that our next evolution is a salvific work of grace, the true work of the gospel. Elijah is about to find his redemption and restoration in Elisha, a beautiful picture of how we morph into something new when we choose to leave the cave of our past fears and frustrations and embrace the new iteration of our ourselves. Sometimes the only way to overcome the tyranny of that which is trying to kill you is to take on a new form, a new name no less, and let the future have her way with you.
You are where you are supposed to be, as difficult as it may seem because God is asking you a question that will ultimately lead to a new answer.
I am here because I am waiting for the whisper of hope that will lead to the new me.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
- Psalm 107:29