Climbing

Then [Elijah] lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. – 1 Kings 19:-6

I know just what you will say, LORD.
“What are you doing here?” you’ll ask.
Oh, I will have an answer, which
will not be any good as an excuse.

Still I climb the mountain, seeking you,
though you have never been so far before
amidst the labors and travails and trials.
Still now, yes now, I journey and I climb.

I’ll tell you I was running to you, and
we neither of us will be much deceived.
I’ll tell you I’m the only one, and yes,
I know as well as you the truth of that.

Amidst the carnage of the wind I’ll stand,
amidst the terror of the quaking earth the same,
against the roaring of the flames I’ll bare my face,
then hide it from you when your stillness comes.

How pointless is my journey and my climb!
I know full well the words I’ll hear: “What are
you doing here?” And I will have no answer
but to whine, and sigh, and wait for what come next:

Your next assignment, roles familiar:
enlist new friends and colleagues to the work
of justice-making, faith-inspiring,
community-building, righteousness-living.

You’ll send me back and chide me
that I thought I was alone, as there were not
countless people who, in their imperfect way
live humble, faithful, righteous lives.

But God, when I am humbled by
your so appropriate rebuke, I’ll cling to this
remembrance as I turn the journey from
the mountain and am homeward bound:

When I was running needlessly and weary
beyond thought or strength, you came to me.
Just like the angel fed Elijah when he fled,
you gave me comfort, solace, rest,

Before you pushed me down the mount again.

A poem/prayer based on 1 Kings 19:1-15a, the Revised Common Lectionary Alternate First Reading for Year C, Proper 7 (12).

The image is The Prophet Elijah in the Desert, a sketch by Alexander Ivanov (19th cent.) – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9087568.

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