The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came . . . and anoint Elisha. . . ” (1 Kings 19:15).
Years ago when my daughter was (much) younger, she lost her jacket at church one Wednesday night. It just disappeared, grew legs and walked off. We searched for a while, but our efforts were futile. It had been a long day. We were both tired and it was time to go home.
“Maybe it’ll turn up, Anna.” That’s what I said out loud to her. Inside my head I was thinking, “We’ll never see that jacket again.” Even so, I knew I’d be back the next day and I’d look again.
On Thursday morning I did what you always do when you’ve lost something. I tried to retrace her steps. The story has a simple but happy ending. I walked up the room where she had hand-bells and there it was. It hadn’t been hard to find. It was simply a matter of going back to where she had been.
A Tale of Two Mountains
“Go back the way you came.” This was God’s word to Elijah (1 Kings 19:15). Sometimes God says the same thing to us.
To follow the story of Elijah is to travel a route between two mountains. Mount Carmel is the place where fire fell from heaven. In that place God’s power and presence were unmistakably real. Elijah prayed and God answered. Nothing puts steel in our faith like a clear and prompt answer to prayer. But the courage of Carmel was short lived. Jezebel’s defiant threats against Elijah sent God’s powerful spokesman into a tailspin. Soon we find Elijah hiding in a cave on Mount Horeb, the mountain to which he had fled in his fear and despair. A cave is a great hiding place, but it makes a lousy home. The good news is that the story of Elijah does not end on Mount Horeb.
There was still more for Elijah to do. God had not finished with him, but God’s purposes for Elijah couldn’t be fulfilled in a cave. Elijah would have to crawl out of the hole he had found in which to stoke his anxieties and self-pity. He would have to retrace his steps and find his calling once again.
“Go back the way you came.”
Never too Late to Start
That sounds simple, but for many nothing could be harder. For one thing the steps that led you to where you are today might have been very painful. Those were steps you never intended to take to begin with, and going back and revisiting those steps may be the last thing you want to do.
But as hard as it might be, the promise that gives strength for the journey is that you can find your way back. The cave is not the end of your story. You can find your way back to a place of usefulness and purpose. You can find your way back to a clear direction. Elijah made his way back through to the place where he found Elisha, the one who would carry on what Elijah had started.
What would it mean for you to “Go back the way you came?” Do you recall where you were or what you were doing when you lost sight of the person God created you to be? What steps do you need to retrace and what might you find once you do that?
You can find your way back. It’s never too late to start.
Gracious God, let every step we take today be taken with you. If there are steps that need to be retraced, make us bold to walk that way that we might once again discover who you’ve called us to be and what you’ve called us to do in this world. In all that we do, we pray that you would make our steps firm and keep faithful as we seek to walk as Jesus walked. We pray this in his name. Amen.
2 thoughts on “Finding Your Way Back”
Thanks Mark, just what I needed to hear.
Your message comes at a good time for me. Thanks, Mark.