This is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s a question God poses to Elijah after he’s freaked himself out, run for his life, and ends up in a cave---far away from his original calling. What are you doing here, Elijah?
Life is complicated. It’s full of beautiful and broken moments. There are some so achingly perfect you wish you could drink it in for days, but there are the other days where it's hard to put one foot in front of the other. Life can exhaust you, so much so that you end up like Elijah. He had a great a calling and a great purpose. In the Bible, Elijah was a mighty prophet who encouraged others to return to God when they were worshipping others. He also saw God work miracles (hello?! fire raining down from the sky) but a threat from Jezebel on his life sends him running. He ends up at a tree, where he lays down and asks God to take his life. Instead, an Angel of the Lord appears and gives him some food and drink, and he rests. Basically, God says, “Shhhh, I get that you’re tired. But here’s some bread.” That maybe free advice for some of you, who are tired: Go to Torchy’s. Get a breakfast taco.
But seriously, Elijah’s story makes me feel less ridiculous. Haven’t we all had those moments? We see God do something miraculous in our lives. Our family member is healed. We get that job promotion. We are becoming the person we always hoped we could be. Then, something else comes swinging in, causing us to forget and run away in fear. We lay down at whatever tree like Elijah. Our tree can be fear. Our tree can be sadness. It can be regret, guilt, shame, whatever.
And that’s okay. We’re so obviously human and life is so obviously real. It can come in big and swooping, making us forget the question that God poses to Elijah, and one I’m posing to all of you reading this blog post: What are you doing here?
Why did God place you on this earth? Was it so that you could lay down at your tree, mope, and groan about all the ways that life isn’t going the way you thought it would? Or have you gotten so deep into your feelings that you’ve forgotten the bigger purpose? I’m not talking about a big purpose either, one where everybody knows your name and you save the world. Purpose can be misunderstood like that. I’m talking about your everyday reason for waking up in the morning.
We all have one. We all have a small difference that we can make in the world. A ripple of change that we can affect with our tiny steps. Stop thinking of purpose as this big, huge thing and start small. Who are the people in my life I can encourage? Who is someone I can help today? What is one step I can make this week towards a dream I have?
Life is like a quilt. That’s what Bishop TD Jakes described in one of his more recent sermons. Quilts are usually sewn together with different patchworks, patterns, and designs. It doesn’t look like it would go together, but when it’s all said and done, you get something beautiful. He went further to say that people are like quilts because we’re complicated or at least he said authentic people are complicated. One minute, we’re full of faith. The next minute, we’re full of fear. One minute, we’re pursuing this dream and passion wholeheartedly. The next day, we’re doubting ourselves. We’re humans. We’re Elijah’s.
And yet, as he says in his sermon: we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Scripture goes as far to call us God's masterpieces. A masterpiece sounds like a high calling, right? But I think about the process of a masterpiece. The Mona Lisa’s, the Maya Angelou books, the Picasso works of art didn’t start out as such. There were probably a lot of rough drafts, false starts, and balled up pieces of paper thrown into the trash before we got to see the final finished work. That’s what’s happening to us in life. We’re constantly regenerating. Taking a step here. Falling down. Starting over. Then, beginning all over again, with that same renewed hope, that same vision: What are you doing here?
I was reminded recently of part of my here, in these verses found in Matthew 5:
Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. Here’s another way to put it. You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.
Light is why I’m here. There’s a light that God always refreshes me with, a strength, a reminder, a hope for more, that I want to continue to spread to those around me. I think we can all start with that, right? There’s so much dark in the world and so much heaviness happening daily.
Couldn’t we all start by just being a light?