Monday, August 29, 2005

When brooks dry up

So [Elijah] did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him: "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food." (1 Kings 17:5-9, NIV)
God has a sense of humor, and a great sense of timing.

I've been holding onto H. Beecher Hicks' powerful text Preaching Through a Storm, so I could send my friend Eric a copy of a sermon from it for his pastor, as they struggle with building a new church. But instead, this morning, I opened it randomly, and found a wonderful discussion of this text from 1st Kings 17. And it's exactly what I needed to hear.

If you don't know the story, this is where the prophet Elijah has prophesied that the rain will stop and wells will dry up, because of the evil in the land. Ahab and Jezebel don't take well to this, and so Elijah's on the run from them. The Lord tells Elijah to head down to Kerith, hang out by the brook, and the Lord would send ravens to bring food and water in the brook.

And then the brook dries up.

Hick's question is simple and direct: What do you do when it certainly seems like you've been called to go to a place, and the brook you're depending on for life dries up?

This is not just an idle Biblical reflection - especially not for me at this time in my life. Rev. Hicks tells me that "whenever you loose that which gives meaning and importance to your life, your brook has dried up. Whenever you can no longer find the thing that puts a smile on your face and joy in your soul, your brook has dried up." Wow...that gets to be a long list, eh?

When the job I've relied on is gone...when the retirement fund I've been counting on for years is now only worth pennies on the dollar ...when the goal I've had my eyes on for years is no longer a possibility... when the child, loved one or friend I've cared for goes completely off the deep end...when I come to church and sing the songs and say the prayers, but have no melody in my soul or desire to communicate with the One I'm praying to...then Hicks would suggest that my brook has dried up.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, it did to me, too. Entirely too familiar.

The worst part is, Elijah is at the brook as a hiding place - a place of safety - and now it looks like that hiding place is no longer safe. I'd imagine he had some choice words for God at that point, though the text doesn't say it. In fact, later on, Elijah finally gets exhausted and says, "It is enough! Lord, take away my life..." (1 Kings 19:4)

Rev. Hicks tells me that when my brook dries up, it first forces me to remember exactly Who provided the brook in the first place...kind of an attention getter from the Giver of all things. But the main thing is simply this: don't panic, and be ready to move - because God who is in charge of the water is also in charge of you!

Hicks suggests that the reason that our brooks dry up is to make sure that each one of us has a testimony - a story to tell of the struggles of this world, and God's provision in all of it. In Elijah's case, when the water and the food dried up, God sent him to a widow and her son - both of whom were about to starve to death. (Not the best rescue team for a dehydrated, hungry man, eh?)

But the most broken of vessels, plus God's blessing, can be a place of refuge in the middle of life's storms. Just handful of meal and a bit of oil (plus God's provision) meant biscuits for everyone for quite a while. The message seems to be, if I'll leave my dried-up stream over here, God will provide for me over there. Which is exactly what I needed to hear, this morning, and this week.

God, it's hard to even consider being thankful when my brooks dry up - and even harder when I've been the one who's caused my brooks to go dry. It just seems so hard to "keep on keepin' on," at times. But You tell me to just keep on, and that solace and peace are ahead of me. Thank you for that assurance today, Lord. Amen.


Erin said...

It's interesting that God gave Elijah the power to multiply the oil, but not the water in the brook. Many times, I think the things that happen in our lives aren't really about us (or exclusively about us). Maybe it's more in the context of community that God provides?

Steve F. said...

I agree with you - most of my life (which I thought was all about me) was in fact about how well I played with others. God definitely works in my life in community, rather than in solitude. In fact, most of my experience has been trying to find the community to which I've been called to be a part.

Interestingly, however, I've never understood it that Elijah multiplied the flower or the oil. I don't want to nitpick, but I need to be reminded that I don't end up doing anything in the case of miracles - except to proclaim them, occasionally.

Of course, I could be all wet, too... wouldn't be the first time!

Hope said...

I needed to read this today - thank you.

Erin said...

Steve, I totally get your point. But somehow I think Elijah was integral. I keep thinking of that little family, starving in quiet desperation... Even if the only role he had to play was to provide hope, Elijah had a role.

Just as I think that when we knowingly refuse to obey God's voice when we know he's speaking... it's more than just ourselves that lose out.

Anonymous said...

When the brook dries up, I usually just lick the rocks...bottom feeder that I am. I've been reading the very same passage, however reading through the end to the resurrection...interesting stuff. I keep asking myself, "what bit of flour am I clinging to?" Learning to give everything is wearing me out, but freakishly energizing me as well.

I hope that all is with you brother.

Kat said...

great excerpt...i'm at the point now where i feel most of my brook has dried up but god is slowly filling it again. i have to keep remembering that he is the one who provides the water. how do you keep pressing on when all you feel is dry desert and no oasis in site?? it's a weary battle and journey....