When the prophet Elijah meets God at Horeb, it was not the encounter he expected:
Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
Often God presents Himself in such small ways that we can miss Him; it’s no wonder that Jesus exhorts us to be watchful and ready for we truly do not know when He will come, or how. I am glad I was able to perceive Him last week.
After several months of struggle with despondency, feeling stuck in the mud and losing hope of ever coming out of it, the darkness suddenly lifted from within. Counsel from my spiritual mother, a chance encounter on social media, and a friend’s story told over dinner worked together to shine a bright light into my soul. God broke through and I am myself again.
I can recall only one other time that I experienced this; I was in college and struggling with depression. I prayed to God for help and for a time, he lifted my burden. I was so awed by it that I wrote a song about that experience:
Black clouds descended and it rained so hard and long
I thought it would never let up but then one day it was gone
I remember the feeling when the sun came shining through, shining through
And the sky was never so peaceful a blue.
That’s how I felt once with the pressure closing in
I thought it would never let up, then it lifted from within
I remember the feeling when I felt it slip away, slipping away
And I relished every moment of that day.
Sweet relief, sweet relief …
I knew God loved me. His aroma was sweet, lingering for days after he touched me with his grace. I had done nothing to warrant that blessing. I do know however that had I not devoted some time to prayer every day, the endless noise of this world would have drowned him out. I would not have been ready to receive him.
My attempts at prayer are dismal at times, marred with distractions. On average I pray just 10 minutes in the morning and during certain moments of the day as my Google calendar prompts me. Prayer can seem like a useless exercise but each day I come back and do it again. I wonder how God can accept such feeble efforts.
But he does accept them by keeping my heart and mind open to receiving his grace. Even as I am bombarded by the commotion of this world, I can hear him. Elijah’s life must have been rooted in prayer because he was prepared to receive God’s word. He did not let the clamor of the world with its thunder, earthquakes, and fire fool him into thinking he had found God. Sharpened by prayer, he intuited that God was present in the gentle breeze.
Chance encounters and simple words constituted the gentle breeze of God’s grace for me. The aromas of wonder, gratitude, and sweet relief continue to linger.
Yes, God did in fact, bless me. So I will continue to offer the feeble efforts of my prayer, striving to be more mindful of him, and ask for grace to keep those distractions at bay. It’s vital to remain watchful; as Psalm 121 says,
He will not let your foot slip —
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep. (Ps. 121: 3-4)
Copyright 2019 Susan Bailey