Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he 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. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.
1 Kings 19: 1-9a
Gosh – what a contrast with yesterday’s story.
And how common such a reaction is.
After all, the encounter with the prophets of Baal must have generated immense amounts of adrenaline for Elijah. And after an adrenaline rush we so often experience an adrenaline hangover. What’s more, I’ll be no-one got around to eating or drinking while all that drama was going on, least of all Elijah… and sleep won’t have figured highly either, before or after, what with anxiety and the need to get away fast!!!
Speaking as a teacher, by the end of term (which is fast approaching, praise be…) I’m often utterly drained, struggling to sleep and fighting a tendency to either over- or under-eat. I’m often vaguely aware that I’m actually thirsty – but don’t take time to drink, not even a quick mouthful, thus becoming even more dehydrated. And like Elijah, when I get into that kind of over-drive I have a tendency to think that it all rests on my shoulders – that if I don’t keep on keeping on then somehow the entire universe will fall apart (ah yes – when I indulge in “all-or-nothing” thinking then it really is all!!) So I drive myself to do “just this one more thing” over and over and over again until, one way or another, I crack up. A lot of teachers I know spend the first week of their precious two weeks off being ill… I’ve often wondered whether it’s the same for clergy in the weeks after Christmas and Easter…
Advent is all about God becoming fully human – God incarnate – God clothed in flesh and blood.
And in the Gospel accounts we read of Jesus taking time out, withdrawing, despite the endless stream of people in need.
So why do we despise our bodies so?
Why do we drive ourselves into illness and exhaustion?
Why do we fail to meet our basic physical needs for food, water, sleep?
Why do we think that we can do what Jesus couldn’t and didn’t – be available 24/7?
Thinking back to yesterday – whose agenda are we working to? Ours? someone else’s? or God’s?
Because in this story of the aftermath of his Mount Carmel experiences, God comes to Elijah and simply provides him with food, water, sleep… God meets Elijah’s physical needs first, and only then is Elijah in a fit state to hear the still, small voice of God speaking to him.
So who are we, to do less for ourselves than God would do?
God’s agenda for us includes taking proper care of the body He has given us – ensuring that we have the right amount of the right kind of food, plenty of water and enough sleep. And if making that my priority means there isn’t always time to write a daily Advent Book Club blog or the blog is shorter, less well-thought-out, then so be it.
God give us grace to know His priority for us in every moment so that we are able to celebrate the feast of the Nativity in peace and calm.