1 Kings 19:3-4, 9-13 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life . . . “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life . . .” But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah? . . . Go out and stand before me on the mountain.” As Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain . . . but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper . . . and [again] a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
The recent eruption of Volcán Fuego in Guatemala reminded me of the following incident in my life.
When I was fourteen I had the privilege of attending a retreat for English-speaking teens beside Lake Amatitlán in Guatemala, with a guest speaker from the U.S. His theme was Romans 12:1-2, about offering our whole lives to God. The fact that almost fifty years later I can remember the text is testimony to the impact the retreat had on me.
On the last day of the retreat, we climbed a mountain next to Volcán Pacaya, an active volcano that frequently spews fire and ash. Our climb was a dirty, sweaty struggle through ash many feet deep to the designated picnic spot at the top of the mountain. But it was worth the struggle. The view, as we ate our sandwiches with a cool wind refreshing us, was breathtaking.
After lunch, our speaker challenged us to take the step he had been drawing us toward through the whole retreat: Worship God truly by offering him your whole selves as a living and holy sacrifice. He directed us to find a spot by ourselves on the mountain top to consider this decision.
I still remember where I sat, and the vista spread out before me: range after range of mountains, the volcano to my right, and the lake shimmering in the valley. God’s creative majesty gripped me. In the stillness, I heard God’s whisper, “What are you doing here, Debbie?”
Like Elijah, I told the Lord I was at the end of my rope. I had hit a wall. I wanted to be done.
Like Elijah, I felt completely alone. I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone about the things I struggled with, the wounds I had suffered and the burdens I carried. Coming to the end of this retreat, I didn’t think I could handle going back to my real life.
What was I doing there? I was offering God my broken, weary self, and asking him to take me from that mountain top directly to Heaven. But as he did with Elijah, God sent me back. He said, “I will go with you. Listen for my gentle whisper.”
As he did with Elijah, he showed me I was not alone.