A broom tree.
I suppose that I am looking for a broom tree.
I have a propensity to run, like Elijah.
Oh, he had good reason to run. Ahab had told Jezebel of the prophets of Baal that Elijah had slain. And she, in blind fury, was determined to return the favor. She was determined to slay Elijah. And so, in fear, he ran.
But, I wonder, if there wasn’t more than just fear in his fleeing.
Because, isn’t it interesting that, after running for an entire day into the wilderness and setting (maybe collapsing) himself down underneath the broom tree, he then implores that God would slay him. That God would take his life. This man, who was under threat of losing his life at the hands of Jezebel and who fled in fear did not pray that God protect him and spare his life. No, he prayed to die. At the hands of God, which, I suppose, would be better than being slaughtered at the hand of Jezebel, but still. Dead is dead.
So, I wonder, if it was not just fear that sent Elijah into the wilderness. I wonder if it was something more. Something in addition to the fear. Something else at work in Elijah’s mind and soul.
Despair? A sense of desperation?
Or was it crushing weariness?
We’ve all been there. We kid ourselves when we say we have not. It comes when, in seasons of ministry, it’s more funerals and contentious business meetings and long nights sitting with hurting parents than potlucks and increasing attendance and tangible changed lives. It comes when, as parents, it’s more financial worries and teens making deadly decisions and even seemingly endless weeks of little ones with strep throat instead of chubby newborns and graduates with honors and hours sitting at the table playing Uno together. It comes when, as employees, it’s more deadlines and pressure and worry over job fidelity instead of promotions and vacations and achievements. It comes when, as humans, it’s more battling real depression and loneliness and sin instead of peace and contentment and joy.
And, it comes when, as we stumble along this path called “Christ-follower”, it’s more silence and doubt and fear than soul-stirring worship and Biblical insights and certainty of God’s existence. It comes when it’s more apathy and nightmares and weariness than communion and faith and living.
It’s when the grace seems absent.
Not that it is absent. It isn’t. It never is. But sometimes; sometimes, it is hard to see.
Elijah ran away from Jezebel’s threats. I get that. But what if there was more to it then just that? He doesn’t seem to me to be someone easily frightened. I mean, he ran away from the threat of death only to plead for death at the hands of God. He was one prophet of God in the midst of 450 prophets of Baal, and yet he took them all on. He called Ahab on the carpet.
Elijah was not weak.
And yet, he was.
Under that broom tree, he was finished. He was done. His words were thus: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
It is enough, indeed.
And then, Elijah slept. Was it the sleep of a dead person–deep, unconscious sleep? Or was it fitful, filled with nightmares?
You, and I, know this place. This “I can’t take another step forward” place. It’s what paralyzes us. It’s what drives us to run.
I’m there, now. In this undisclosed, unnamed hotel room in a random city. It’s that need to be where no one can find you and no one knows you and no one knows where you are. It’s looking for that broom tree. It’s even hoping that God will say to you “What are you doing here, my child?” as He said to Elijah. It’s that soul-yearning desire to hear God in that low whisper, even when we’d prefer the great and strong wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. Or anything. It’s that hope that when you open scripture it will be as the cake baked on hot stones and jar of water was to Elijah.
I’m sitting under this broom tree.
Be near, God. Please.
Arise and eat. The journey is too great for you.