Thursday, June 27, 2013

What I am Learning: Elijah Edition

What a relief to sit down with my cup of tea and rest! I picked 24 pounds of strawberries this morning. It was end of season picking, and I had to really work for those 24 pounds.

Yesterday Elizabeth asked on Twitter, "who is your favorite OT example of someone God cared for through suffering?" I answered Elijah.

I think Elizabeth was a bit baffled with my answer. Elijah is not usually the person who comes to our minds when we think of suffering. But his issues of depression and weariness are ones I face. Here's my not 140 twitter character answer of why I picked Elijah.

I love Elijah. He was a firebrand prophet of God. God spoke to him, gave him a message to speak to others, and he did it boldly despite the consequences.

Of course, we all are familiar with the story of Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal. The altars, sacrifices, showmanship and prayers, and how Elijah's sacrifice was thoroughly consumed by fire sent from the only true God in heaven. Triumph of heady proportions!

That day wraps up with Elijah killing 850 prophets of Baal, the first rain in almost 3 years, and a death threat. Jezebel was going to kill Elijah.

Now, you'd think, that this threat would have been like water off a duck's back. God burned up His own sacrifice. He could easily protect Elijah.

Instead of trusting, Elijah runs away. He is rather depressed and suicidal. "Just kill me, God!" His perceptions are way off. He can't see the good. He is exhausted, hungry, and needy. He sleeps and eats  and then he runs for 40 days.

I know I have been rather hard on Elijah. Really? It was that bad? Where's your faith in God?

One thing I have learned by experience is that there are seasons of ministry where you give your all. And then you have nothing left. You are completely depleted.

Case in point: my last two weeks. What with the retreat (planning, grocery shopping, carrying, cooking and leading a session one night), leading the 4 hour long training session on how to teach kids' Bible clubs, teaching everything the first evening of our VBS, and the supervising the other four nights, I am whipped.

Absolutely drained. I am tired-physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually. Honestly, I want to run away. (interesting co-inky-dink...Mr. Hippie and I are absconding to Chicago sans offspring for three days this weekend. I guess you could call that running away.)

This is not a one time occurrence either. Every time we do a week long VBS or a weekend children's conference, or have some other period of intense ministry, I am exhausted afterwards.

Does this mean that seasons of focused ministry are wrong? Does it mean that we shouldn't be tired after seasons of focused ministry? I don't think so.

God cared for Elijah when he was suffering weariness and depression. God is dealing with me this week the same way He dealt with Elijah. He is still caring...

God fed Elijah. Physically and spiritually. God gave Elijah real food, and He spoke to him.
After seasons of focused ministry we need to take care of our physical bodies. I find when I am weary and cranky it can be because I haven't eaten and my blood sugar is low. I have forgotten my daily vitamins. We also need to take time to be bathed in Scripture, in God's words. We need to read the Bible, and think about it. Not just a five minute to-do, but a real heart to heart. We need to listen for His still small voice of encouragement and provision.

God allowed Elijah to rest and sleep. God gives His people sleep. He gives them periods of rest.
I can probably do it all, but I can't. Meaning, I can manage to do a whole lot each day. I can cram my days from early morning to late night with to-do's. I can actually make those to-do's, all-done's. I can do the list, but something will suffer. If only my sanity. I am learning that just because I can, doesn't mean I should.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to pick all I wanted in free strawberries. It was a very tempting offer, that I turned down. I had brunch planned with the BFF and we had VBS that evening. I would have had to pick the strawberries quick between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., rush home to meet the BFF, visit, and then instead of having quiet time in the afternoon, I would have been dealing with strawberries. And I would have had to deal with them all day Saturday. Could I have done that? Yes. Would it have saved me money? Yes. Would it have pounded me further into the ground? Yes.

Instead I had a wonderful visit with the BFF, wrote a blog post and shopped with LC Friday afternoon, went to a bonfire Friday evening, slept in until 10:30 on Saturday, took a nice bike ride with Mr. Hippie Saturday afternoon, and went for a picnic with the offspring on Saturday night.

This fed my soul, rested my body, and was the better choice.

God gave Elijah a renewed mission and a friend. He had him anoint his successor and co-worker.
The older I get, the more I am comfortable in my own skin. With this comes the perspective and excitement and ability to embrace other's gifts, whether similar or different than my gifts. Life and ministry are no longer a competition. They are the opportunity to serve together so that all can use the gifts God has given them. There are no celebrities, only co-workers. As the work is shared, more gets done. The joy is multiplied. God is glorified. God has provided people to work together. If only we will.

So, now I have to stop resting and finish hulling my 24 pounds of strawberries. And make jam. And pies. But those can wait until tomorrow.

I will be linking this post up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky Link Up Things I learned in June.