As a child I loved the story about Elijah. There’s something enchanting, almost magical about his journey into the unknown. I would get caught up in the story, imagining myself out in the middle of nowhere, on an adventure.
It was exciting and out of the ordinary. After all in the first part of the story Elijah had ravens bringing him bread and meat each morning and evening. How cool is that? Not so much that he can store it up is his portable cooler but enough for that day. And each day they come back with just enough. As a child it was a great example of what faith looked like. It was an encounter with the living God, being totally dependant and receiving daily bread.
As an adult I continued to long for that encounter, the life of faith. I wanted to be a part of God’s story. And so one day when I was working as a machinist, tired of the mundane, I decided to head out on an adventure. I decided that the best way to do this was go on a three day hike to Joffre Lake up near Whistler. I would bring camping gear, water but no food. I would fast and wait for God to provide whatever I needed, whether that be spiritual or physical nourishment.
This was going to be my Elijah experience. Not surprisingly Vanessa and my mother were very concerned.
“Do you think this is such a good idea?” Vanessa asked me as I packed my bags.
“Of course it is, God will take care of me,” I retorted, as if to say, “Do you doubt God’s ability?”
With everything squared away I headed up towards Whistler after work. It was a beautiful drive with the ocean on the left and the towering cliffs on the right. I arrived at the hiking trail up to Joffre Lake and got all my gear ready. I was already getting a bit hungry but that was all part of the plan. With my bag full of water and camping gear I began the trek with all the other eager hikers who seemed somewhat more prepared than me. 20 minutes in I began feeling woozy and was covered in mosquitoes. The constant buzzing of their little wings was driving me crazy not to mention the fact that I was starving and beginning to feel sick. I stopped for a moment. Suddenly the idea of a three day hike seemed insane.
“What am I doing?” I thought to myself as I dropped the heavy pack and sat down on a rock.
“Is this how it’s supposed to be?”
I quickly realized that however it was supposed to be I had to turn back. And so 20 minutes into my spiritual journey I turned around and went home. You can only imagine how happy my family was to see me and how disappointed I was that I had failed to have faith like Elijah.
Or had I?
As a child my view of faith was simple. Elijah was called into the wilderness, he went and God provided, end of story. As an adult faith became much more complicated. It became infused with what I wanted, what I expected and much less about God. As if following a how to book the story of Elijah became a map for how I could experience faith. It wasn’t about God’s call but what I wanted. It was about me. But faith isn’t about us and what we want. In fact it goes against what we want, what we think is reasonable.
Take the second part of Elijah’s journey. He’s called to go to a widow who has been commanded to feed him. First of all the widow already has two strikes against her; a dead husband and a hungry son.
“This is nuts,” Elijah must have thought.
When he arrives he soon finds out that God has sent him to a widow that’s on her last ration. After this meal her son and her will simply die. Against all proper intuition Elijah asks her to feed him first. And against her own better judgment she listens to God’s promise that the jar of meal will not emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain to the earth. West Jet flight attendants would be ashamed of her. Always put your own mask on first. But she ends up giving her mask to Elijah. And the jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word the Lord spoke by Elijah. Through faith, the impossible, the unbelievable becomes reality for the widow and her son. Faith has a way of making unreal real, of revealing the true reality.
But as adults the story gets drowned out. The cynicism and reality that we encounter has a way of eating away at our child like wonder like so many little caterpillars gnawing at the leaves of a tree, constantly, constantly. Spouses die, children get sick and the world overwhelms. The impossible no longer seems possible because the story of death, hunger and selfishness screams at us from all sides. Giving your last loaf of bread to a stranger. Impractical. People raised from the dead. Impossible.
Maybe that’s why I loved my bible picture book so much as a child. I would lay there like the boy in the Never Ending Story engulfed in the adventure. It was a world where the impossible was possible. It was where the hungry were fed in amazing ways, where despite their better judgment people threw caution to the wind, where the dead were raised and where the unexpected happened. This is the story that I still want to be a part of. It’s the story that we are all a part of.
We’re a part of God’s story, an outrageous and amazing story, one that doesn’t always make sense, continues to surprise us, confuses us, challenges us and draws us outside of ourselves. It’s the story you read as a child with wonder and amazement and as an adult continue to struggle and grapple with as you live it out each moment of each day. It’s the story of faith you where drawn into at baptism and made a part of through Jesus. It’s God’s story and each of you are a part of it in this very moment, tomorrow and forevermore. You are a part of God’s story.Thanks be to God.