When we meet Elijah, he’s delivering God’s bad news of a drought.
The rain stops, so Elijah is validated as the real deal. God provides for him despite the affliction on the land, and even gives him a big victory over the bad guys. (I Kings 17:1-18:40)
When God decides to open the heavens and water the land, Elijah goes up Mt. Carmel, which looks out over the Mediterranean. Watching for rain clouds to rise over the sea, he assumes a strange position,
And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” (1 Kings 18:42-43 ESV)
Commentaries don’t agree on what Elijah is doing or why he does it that way. Some assume a position of prayer, which seems to be what the New Testament sees; others keep it simpler and suggest that he’s exhausted from all of his exertions and the ascent of the mountain.
Whatever he is or isn’t doing, he’s down in that position and he isn’t moving. Head on the ground, he growls at a servant to go look for clouds. And when they are sighted, he sends the servant to announce it. Only later is “the hand of the LORD on Elijah,” and he gets up to run with the next message.
When our older son was small, he liked to do pratfalls. When he met new people, he wasn’t into all the conventional pleasantries. He’d throw his hands in the air and swoon to the ground. My wife and I called it “Going Uhhhhhh…” because he would sometimes accompany the act with that sound for emphasis.
So Elijah goes “Uhhhh” before the LORD on Mt. Carmel. I feel some affinity these days. I’m in a place of dark comfort, if that makes any sense. Not happy clappy, but not bummed. I just paid bills, which usually raises my anxiety, and I was calm and content. Again, not “up,” but aware of God’s reality and care.
I know, I know. To the upright and pious, God’s reality and care should make me perky. But I’m not there. Some commentaries point out that the spot on Mt. Carmel with the best ocean view is not the summit, but a place somewhere down the western slope. So I’m not on a mountain top, I’m going”Uhhhhh” somewhere down the slope, letting the LORD do His stuff while I stay still.
I won’t presume to name this territory I inhabit. Maybe I’m mental. But I like being off of the last several months of ups and (mostly) downs. And I wonder if God’s grace is taking me to the place celebrated in the mystical poetry of St. John of the Cross,
I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.
(One Dark Night, stanza 8, Kavanaugh & Rodriguez trans.)