My daughter lost her jacket at church last Wednesday night. It just disappeared, grew legs and walked off. We searched for while, but it had been a long day, we were both tired and it was time to go home. Part of me wanted to be hard-nosed about it, dig in and let her know we weren’t going anywhere until she found that jacket. Another part of me – the part that won – just wanted to go home.
“Maybe it’ll turn up, Anna.” That’s what I said out loud to her. Inside my head I was thinking, “We’ll never see that jacket again.” I knew I’d be back the next day and I’d look again.
Thursday morning: A little more time, much less tired. I did what you always do when you’ve lost something. I tried to retrace her steps. Her first stop on Wednesday afternoon was Marnie’s office. That had been thoroughly searched and we knew it wasn’t there. The second stop was bell choir. We hadn’t thought of that on Wednesday night. The story has a simple but happy ending. I walked up the room where she has hand bells and there it was. It hadn’t been hard to find. It was simply a matter of going back to where she had been.
“Go back the way you came.” This was God’s word to Elijah. Sometimes God says the same thing to us.
Last week we spent several days with Elijah on Mount Horeb, the mountain Elijah had fled to in his fear and despair. A cave makes a great hiding place, but it makes a lousy home. The good news is that the story of Elijah does not end on Mount Horeb.
“Go back the way you came.”
There was still more for Elijah to do. God hadn’t finished with him, but God’s purposes for Elijah couldn’t be fulfilled in a cave. Elijah would have to crawl out of the hole he had found in which to stoke his anxieties and self-pity. He would have to retrace his steps and find his calling once again.
“Go back the way you came.”
That sounds simple but for many nothing could be harder. For one thing the steps that took you to where you are today might have been very painful. The cave of self-pity or self-doubt was never a place you thought you’d be, and you’re not entirely sure how you got there. Going back and revisiting those steps may be the last thing you want to do. You’d just as soon not walk through that desert again.
But as hard as it might be, the promise that gives strength for the journey is that you can find your way back. The cave is not the end of your story. You can find your way back to a place of usefulness and purpose. You can find your way back to a clear direction. You can find your way back to being someone who has something to offer that shapes another person’s life.
Elijah made his way back through to the place where he found Elisha, the one who would carry on what Elijah had started. That’s the story we’ll spend time with this week. But for today, what would it mean for you to “Go back the way you came?” What steps do you need to retrace and what might you find once you do that?
Gracious God, let every step we take today be taken with you. If there are steps that need to be retraced, make us bold to walk that way that we might once again discover who you’ve called us to be and what you’ve called us to do in this world. In all that we do, we pray that you would make our steps firm and keep faithful as we seek to walk as Jesus walked. We pray this n his name. Amen.