That time When God Told Elijah to take a Nap
Ya'll, it's been a rough few months. Heck, it's been a rough year. It's the anniversary of the week when COVID-19 brought unprecedented changes. Many lost their jobs as businesses closed and the economy suffered. I was in that number. My family has been fortunate... just before the COVID assistance stopped, a door opened to teaching position, and I found myself going back to public school after 20 years. #thingsIneverthoughtwouldhappen #theOnlydoor
I've heard it said that "There is no tired like Teacher Tired." After 5 months of long hours and multiple huge projects piled on all at once (plus a steep learning curve in a new grade level) I can attest that this is truth. I have not felt this tired since the year that my oldest son spent months in and out of the hospital on a monthly and weekly basis.
There is an exhaustion that goes beyond the physical and seeps into the very psyche. All of who I am, physically, emotionally, and spiritually has been exceptionally worn down. I am beyond bone weary. The best way I can describe the state of my spirit, soul, and body by the beginning of Spring Break, was "debilitated".
Add in a personal loss, and my ongoing struggle with whether this path was really God's plan for me, and the emotional ramifications of this entire season have left me decimated. Empty and debilitated.
Do I have a severe case of Caregiver's Fatigue? Absolutely. I wanted to do some self care, but did not have the strength to imagine what that would entail. Can you relate? If so, you are not alone.
In addition to the many teachers and other professionals who are feeling depleted and empty, the prophet Elijah experienced his own great deluge, and was on the verge of an emotional break down.
"I'm finished, Eternal One" Elijah pleaded in 1 Kings 19:4. (The Voice Version) "I'm no better than my ancestors who are already dead." This was the ancient precursor to "Jesus, take me now." The Complete Jewish Version says, "Enough." After pleading with Adonai to end his life, Elijah fell into an exhausted sleep.
The prophet of God had just experienced an incredible victory, which had required an enormous amount of physical and emotional work. After an mammoth endeavor to rid his land of Baal worship--part of which involved child sacrifice- God had granted victory over the false prophets. Elijah's part had included a great deal of physical labor along the way.
Elijah had journeyed and rallied, and dug ditches and lifted heavy stones, killed a big bull and chopped it up, and worked and fought and rallied the Israelites-- and he had to have been physically and emotionally exhausted by the end of it. Elijah's hard work was rewarded when God lit a fire over a soaking wet sacrifice--miraculously, which would have been a huge emotional high.
After Elijah did an enormous amount of manual labor and experienced a passionate and fiery victory, "he pulled his garment up around his thighs and SPRINTED" down a mountain. A MOUNTAIN ya'll.
Elijah ran from the peak of Mount Carmel all the way to the city of Jezreel- running at a pace that beat King Ahab and a whole chariot of horses. Most biblical scholars believe that the distance was around 17 miles. Again, God worked a miracle, gave Elijah the strength, and the prophet beat the King AND HIS HORSES down the mountain.
So, simply put, after a day of substantial physical labor and the emotional high brought on by multiple miraculous victories--if any one was tired and needed a rest in spirit, soul and body, it would have been Elijah.
Yet instead of having a well earned rest, Elijah had to flee for his life because Queen Jezebel flew into a rage and ordered Elijah's execution. Instead of a triumphal celebration and a good night's sleep, Elijah was forced back on the road again. He traveled the length of Israel in one day. Once he arrived at the southern point of Judah, he sought some much needed solitude. "He journeyed into the desert", spent the day there, and rested beneath a broom tree. It appears that the prophet was so tired, and had so many pent up emotions that he had not had a chance to work through, that he simply could not rest. He was emotional and overtired. Ever been there?
Under the broom tree, Elijah began to process his emotions and deal with his exhaustion. He sat down under the tree and said, the equivalent of "God I want to die. Take me now. I'm done. Enough already."
After he had released some of those enormous emotions, Elijah was finally able to sleep.
He woke to the Angel of God, who gave him food and said, "Eat. The journey is too much for you." Oh, the mercy of God, who gives us permission to have human frailty. Permission to have needs and care for those needs. It's not always about everyone else. We each have needs of our own and Jehovah Jireh says, "Darling, you are tired and worn. Have a rest and some nutrition. You've taken care of SO many others, now let's take care of you." And I breathe a huge sigh of relief. It's OK to rest. It's OK to not spend Spring Break getting caught up on all that virtual data entry. It's OK to be human and need some sleep. Sometimes, I say, "Enough." and God says, "Yes. Enough. Now get some sleep."
Nutrition and a nap- God's prescription for recovery from a whole lotta work and a whole lotta stress.
Twice, Elijah was instructed by God to sleep and eat. Then, he was rested and revived enough to take another journey. And guess what he did at the end of his journey? He crawled into a cave and he slept. Each time, God gave the prophet what he needed to make it through the hard places in his journeys. Permission to grieve. Permission to work through All. The. Feels. Permission to process emotions and vent and get some sleep and have some nutritional needs cared for.
God also reminded Elijah that he was not alone. After Elijah was rested, God spoke in a still small voice, and then showed him the others who would walk with him through the rest of the struggle.
Ya'll, I am in a Wilderness Time. I am worn out all the time. I am stretched to the end of what I think I can do. I am "pressed but not crushed..." though some days the work load does feel crushing. Still, I am not abandoned. Some how, some way, God always seems to provide Just Enough time and energy to do what is required. Yes, it is too much. No, I cannot do it on my own. But the reality is, I don't have to do it on my own.
Because Yahweh is the God of the Wilderness, and he knows that in every wilderness season what we need most is emotional release (a time to vent), some rest (and good old fashioned sleep), and time to refresh and be nourished in spirit, soul, and body. This week, the gift has been that rest.
Am I ready to go back... almost. But I know that even if I am never quite ready, God is... and he is faithful to grant strength for the journey and rest when I need it most.
~ Just Me