A few years ago, Monica was riding one of those huge scary roller coasters with a friend of ours (I am the type who volunteers to sit with the backpacks on the bench). Just as they hit the apex prior to the big drop, she turned and asked him, “Did you remember to buckle your seatbelt?” It had no seatbelts – but the horrified look on his face as he franticly fumbled for it while their car passed the apex was priceless. Thankfully, Monica lived to tell the story. Our friend, however, may have had his life shortened by a year or two through the experience.
That is one way to live on the edge. However, as I mentioned earlier, my preference in that scenario is to sit on the park bench and watch. I generally find my life on the edge in a far different way … a way that, rather than weighted by fear, is caused by fatigue. However, thanks to God’s grace and my graying temples, these days I generally recognize the approaching edge in advance of the apex. Did I mention that, as of this morning, I am on vacation?
It starts with me getting a little short and impatient with people, continues with me overcompensating for my mistakes, and often includes internal arguments between the good angel on my right shoulder and the demon on the left. I find myself getting easily frustrated. My creativity, if I ever had any, goes out the window, and then, as the edge approaches, the creature on my right yanks be back. Did I mention that this afternoon I plan to relax in the waters of Houghton Lake?
The first half of this year has been stressful and tiring for most. This past week I spoke with both nineteen-year-olds and ninety-year-olds who expressed the same. People have lost jobs and loved ones. Socialites halve become shut-ins and beauty queens have turned gray. And now, just as we were starting to enjoy a little loosening up, we find ourselves taking a step backwards! The leaders of our congregation have done a great job, though our work together has had its own tiring effects. And I think we are all aware that what God’s people do in the second half of 2020 will be critical. This is a part of living life on the edge.
There was a time when life on the edge finally got to the prophet Elijah. We are told he“prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said, ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.”(1 Kings 19.4-5) God answered his prayer, though not by granting Elijah’s request. “All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So, he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights.”(1 Kings 19.5-8) Acknowledging that what was taking place was too much for Elijah to handle, God, rather that granting him escape, gave him the strength to complete the task before him. In fact, you might recall that Elijah is one of the few people in the Bible who never died! (I bet God still teases Elijah about that today.)
Elijah, noting his fatigue and personal shortcomings, prayed to God. He felt like he had fallen over the edge and that his life was over. However, God said, “Not so, Elijah. What lies before you is critical. Take a rest. Let me strengthen you. And then get up and go to complete the task I have for you.” I think that God is saying something similar to us as his people today, thus I hope all of us find the time to step back a little, to relax and pray and be strengthened by God. We are not at the edge of a cliff, but at the edge of a great time of opportunity for the Kingdom of God.
It only took Elijah two meals to get his act together – I am taking two weeks. Elijah I am not! But servants of the Lord Jesus we are. He sees opportunity when all we can see is the problem (Have you heard the story of the tiny red dot on the huge sheet of while paper?). He provides strength for the weary and hope for the hopeless. He does not grow faint or weary. And he know just when to place our life on the edge, and when to rescue us from it.
Elijah’s life and ministry continued for many more chapters – you might wish to keep reading the narrative in first and second Kings. However, I will instead close today with the word of the Lord from another one of his great prophets. “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40.30-31)
And, yes, I anticipate that one week from today God will be sending Elijah’s angel to me with the words, “Hetzner, get up and write.”