Updated: Jan 19, 2022
I’ve had a short but significant phrase bouncing around my head for the last couple of weeks and the more I’ve thought and prayed about it, the more inclined I am to believe it’s the Lord speaking. Anyway, I’ll let you be the judge of that.
The phrase is: Lean in.
That’s it. Lean in.
With that said, let me take you to an account you may know in 1 Kings 19. The story picks up with Elijah on the run. Through him, God has powerfully shown himself to be the one – the only one worthy of worship and allegiance. This news didn’t go down too well, so a bounty is placed on Elijah’s head and he flees. With it so far?
Elijah’s not in great shape, emotionally speaking, at this point. He found a tree, sat down and prayed to die! Expressed so explicitly this seems quite shocking, but maybe some of you can resonate. You’ve served God faithfully and all it seems to have resulted in is cost, inconvenience and unpopularity. You’ve known God’s favour but also known the high stakes of being used by Him in these ways. You’re done. You’ve had enough. You’re exasperated and at your wit’s end. ‘If God can do all those great things, why can’t He take care of me now?’ Maybe praying to die seems a bit drastic, but thoughts of throwing the towel in may be a more common experience than you’ve known before.
Having got to the end of himself, Elijah encountered the supernatural provision of God. In his miserable, self-pitying state, Elijah was ministered to by an angel who gave him food and drink to give energy for the onward journey.
If you’re under a broom tree (metaphorically speaking) and wanting to throw the towel in, know that God sees and God knows. He will provide for you - even in the wilderness.
But Elijah isn’t simply provided sustenance so he can stay and wallow.
Revitalised, Elijah walked on to Mount Horeb. He went to a place where he knew God had shown His presence and made known His provision previously.
And sure enough God turned up. He told Elijah to go and stand on the mountain in His presence.
Go and stand in the Lord’s presence. What an instruction; what an invitation. ‘Wait, I’m coming. I’ve not abandoned you, I’ve not forgotten about you. You’ll know my presence again.’ If we are daft enough to think we can take even one step into the deep waters of 2022 without the presence of God, we are fools. Let’s hear the invitation to come and know God in His presence before we presume to press on with what lies ahead.
Long before ‘70s disco sensation ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’ went global, Elijah experienced a mighty wind, earthquake and wild fire. As he stood there on the mountain these natural phenomena ripped past. Impressive and terrifying in equal measure, no doubt, but the Lord was not in them. When you think about it untamed fire, mighty wind and an earthquake can cause you to pull away. To recoil or cower. To hide rather than to move towards.
But after the fire came a still small voice.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone whose natural volume is a lot lower than your own. Surprisingly this happens a lot with me (I can’t figure out why!) When you’re talking to someone quiet, you find yourself drawn towards them in order to hear. You find yourself leaning in, so you don’t miss what they might be communicating.
And here’s what I’m sharing: An invitation to lean in and to move towards the still small voice. A reminder that the earthquake, wind and fire which may have caused us to step back are accompanied by a still small voice. A voice of love and comfort. A voice of peace and compassion. A voice of hope and life. Lean in, what do you hear?
Maybe this sounds nice – desireable, even. ‘Oh yes, the still small voice. I’d quite forgotten about that. I wish I could hear it again.’ Sounds nice, that is, until you hold it up against your life.
If your life is anything like mine, then it’s possibly more characterised by the noise, speed and chaos of the earthquake, wind and fire than it is shaped by the still, small voice. Maybe it’s how we tell ourselves we survive: Keep moving fast enough, and we may just make it through another week. Still small voice? No time to listen – unless it’s on a Podcast whilst I’m doing something else. Family. Friends. Work. Church. Ministry… lather, rinse, repeat.
How often is the still, small voice drowned out by the loud-shouting demands of this world, and of mine and your own restless hearts?
The antidote? Lean in.
Lean away from the busyness, the to-do lists, the demands. Lean away from the competing priorities and other people’s expectations. Lean away, so you can lean in.
Make time; create space. Switch something off. Forego something else so you can lean in and listen to your Maker, your Father. Lean in, get close. Incline your ear, posture your heart.
God’s invitation, and in honesty for me it’s a challenge as much as an invite, is to lean in again. To find in Him a soul-satisfying delight. To hear from Him an overture of love, and to allow Him to show you in the Word what He says about you – what’s really true about you.
So why not start today? Pray for the Spirit’s help. Tell God how you’re really doing; particularly if you feel to be at the end of yourself, like Elijah. Maybe you’re worn out, disillusioned, wounded. Come to God, lean away from your inclination to press on and to keep up appearances, and lean in to His life-giving, energy-restoring presence.