Called to self-care

Published 6:00 pm Friday, June 24, 2022

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By Charles Qualls

In this week following Father’s Day, I’m thinking of my own Dad. Now gone from us two years, he was absolutely one of the hardest working people I ever saw. He modeled a lot that was admirable and necessary for a child to watch.

Though it might not be the most pleasant thing, I want to ask you a question. Has there been a season when life had you so down, so worn out or so tired, maybe so discouraged that you were basically paralyzed? Has there been a time when you were so overwhelmed or befuddled that you basically shut down?

In a competitive culture where historically we have rewarded work and penalized laziness, we have glorified pulling oneself up by one’s own boot-straps. Working harder. Trying even more. We have glorified doubling down and digging out of any hole we find ourselves in.

Elijah learned something in our story today from 1 Kings 19: 1-15. He learned that our spirits and our emotional souls will do the same thing. They can break, even if what we’ve been giving our time to is crucial and well-intended.

We don’t know much about my Father’s side of the family. At the age of five, he was given away by his own father. One time, we were working on something together. My dad mentioned his grand-father and told me that this relative had died outside on the farm.

I asked him what happened to his granddad? The story was unbelievable. This hard-working, simple minded man began to have what today we would call cardiac symptoms. Across time, a little pain here, a little tightness there.

Did he go to the Doctor?  No. You know what he did? He rubbed horse-liniment on it. He would work outside in the fields and in the barn. Then, if he was feeling a little pain he would assume it was just “a hurt’n” of some kind.

We’re not talking about applying this home remedy to an elbow or a knee. That was far more common. No, he self-medicated heart problems by rubbing horse liniment on his chest and shoulders. Evidently, he did this for a while. One day, having ignored and mistreated his own problem for a long time, they simply found him outside dead. He had kept on, and kept on, until he simply broke. His heart stopped.

There is so much noise in our worlds. Elijah the prophet had a lot of noise speaking into his world suddenly, too. He had the voice of an angry, powerful queen who was vowing revenge by calling for his life.

He also had his own suddenly afraid soul, maybe depressed, maybe even suicidal we notice in our scripture. This prophet had been so bold, so powerful and fearless. Now in the face of Jezebel’s pronouncement, he grows mysteriously fearful.

Truthfully, just like in your life and in mine, we don’t get to know why he was so brave in one moment, only to come up depressed and fearful in the next. Elijah begs God for death. He would roll over and give in to death if God would just grant him that gift.

Instead, Yahweh has more for him to do. God has a recommendation for a starting place. Elijah needs to get some rest. He needs to take care of himself, eat a bite and listen for the fresh voice of God.

We have too many people in today’s culture that are consumed with self-care first, to the tragic cost of their churches and organizations that need them so desperately. We don’t need self care to be our first worry if we aren’t really doing anything. When we rob the world that needs us so badly by not participating, not pulling our fair share of the load, then self-care seems a little self-ish.

Elijah was noticeably tired in today’s story. The prophet had worked hard for God. He worked in danger for God. But in the face of Jezebel’s threat, even Elijah knew that it was time to do something different.

You notice in our story, Elijah’s answer from God to his tiredness isn’t to retire to a well-earned life of doing nothing while in hiding. Fact is, God soon sends Elijah right back to Jerusalem and has a specific task for him to do. But not before some therapeutic healing, listening and nourishment. Elijah really found life again. I think you and I can, too, in our seasons of need.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.