He’s gone, and that’s as it should be.

I was wondering about the biblical model for passing on responsibilities today.  I looked up when Elijah passes the mantle to Elisha.   At first, it seems like a pretty wierd story.

It seems clear that they both knew that Elijah was returning to God soon.   He’s headed off to a variety of cities, and wants to leave his apprentice behind.  Elisha follows him each time.  As the time gets closer, the old mentor asks his friend what he wants.  And what Elisha wants is some of Elijah’s spirit.

Elijah’s answer reads like a Greek myth or something, on the surface.  The only way that Elisha will get some of Elijah’s spirit is if he watches him leave.

Elisha does.  Scripture demonstrates that he ends up with Elijah’s abilities.  And his respect– the followers of Elisha are now prepared to follow the younger man.  Except that they don’t get it, that God has taken Elijah home.  They go looking for him, against Elisha’s advice and counsel.    They don’t find him, and at the end of the tale, Elisha rebukes them for not listening to him.

One of the things that struck me about the story, is how Elisha goes through this transformation.

Early on, he’s like those other guys.  He follows Elijah everywhere.  He probably would have wanted to look around for Elijah, if Elijah disapeared.

It doesn’t seem that he’s ready to let go.  He isn’t ready to step up.   Elijah realizes something.  He sees that the younger man needs to see who is doing the moving.  He needs to see that God is behind it all.

Only when Elisha wraps his brain around this, will he have Elijah’s spirit.  When he sees that God is putting us all where God wants us, then he’ll be stepping up and stepping out in faith.  That’s why it’s so important that Elisha watch his friend go.  In this case, the leaving is a supernatural event.  He is physically lifted up and away.

And because he witnesses this, he’s ready.  When the others want to find Elisha he tries to talk them out of it.  He rebukes them when they return.  He doesn’t need to go looking anymore.  He knows Elijah is gone, and he knows this is as it should be.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “He’s gone, and that’s as it should be.”

  1. Interesting points you’re making, and it reminds me of the story first quoted on Fr Stephen’s blog which I call “The Rabbit Chase.” Have you read it?

    There is a story from the Desert Fathers about a young monk who asked one of the holy men of the desert why it is that so many people came out to the desert to seek God and yet most of them gave up after a short time and returned to their lives in the city.

    The old monk responded:

    “Last evening my dog saw a rabbit running for cover among the bushes of the desert and he began to chase the rabbit, barking loudly. Soon other dogs joined the chase, barking and running. They ran a great distance and alerted many other dogs. Soon the wilderness was echoing the sounds of their pursuit but the chase went on into the night.

    After a little while, many of the dogs grew tired and dropped out. A few chased the rabbit until the night was nearly spent. By morning, only my dog continued the hunt.”

    “Do you understand,” the old man siad, “what I have told you?”

    “No,” replied the young monk, “please tell me, father.”

    “It is simple,” said the desert father, “my dog saw the rabbit!”

    If you want to read the whole post, here’s the link: http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2009/06/11/we-have-seen/


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