The Lord was disciplining me, and it was intense. “Bill,” he said, “you have a blind spot. I am using this to rouse you to do what I have called you to do.”
I immediately knew what he was referring to. He had given me a task to complete. Though I had been working on it diligently for almost two years, I had slacked off recently to attend to other, less important matters—the ordinary things of life that keep us busy, day in and day out.
The voice continued. “No more detours. No more getting sidetracked … You have gotten in the way of the vision I have for you. You have been a block to entering your own destiny.”
Whoa! That was not an easy word to hear, but there was no condemnation in his rebuke. God was just trying to get through to me, pure and simple. My responsibility was to respond appropriately. As I meditated on all these happenings, a much-larger picture of the challenges we all face in our relationships with God began to emerge. The reality is that almost all of us have blind spots in our connections with God. It took me much too long to recognize mine. Some I had suppressed, and others—well, I just wasn’t in touch with them. These are the places in the heart that we’re too embarrassed to admit, too ashamed to enter into, or too afraid to explore—either with God, with others, or perhaps even with ourselves.
So, what do we do? We hide. It’s kind of a variation of impostor syndrome. We try to make things look good on the outside. We don various masks, depending on whom we are with. It might be the mask of competence at work, of confidence with friends, or of joy at church. But when we withdraw into quiet solitude for a few moments to gather our “true” selves, the elusive questions of life simmer to the surface from the depths of our souls. About the lives we are living. About God. About who we are. About who we are not. About where we’re headed. And if we’ll ever get there.
If you’re being honest with yourself, the truth is that, like me, you probably have also created “detours” or have otherwise gotten sidetracked in your relationship with God. You would like it to be better, but you know that, way down, something is off. You may not be sure exactly what it is, but it’s just not right. The connection isn’t as strong as you would like it to be.
As I was praying about all this, the story of the Old Testament prophet Elijah came to my mind (1 Kings 19). That passage definitely has some good “deep” for us.
After Elijah scores a stunning victory over hundreds of pagan prophets under the control of Queen Jezebel, the wicked monarch vows to take the seer’s life in revenge. Thoroughly intimidated, the man of God bolts. Alone and exhausted after a two-hundred-mile trek through the desert, Elijah eventually hides in a cave on Mt. Sinai, the same mountain where Moses had encountered God centuries before. There, God speaks to him.
“Elijah, what are you doing here?” God asks.
After a response filled with self-pity and self-defense, God summons the prophet to come to the mouth of the cave. As Elijah lingers there, a tornado roars past, hurling rocks all about him. But God is not in the tornado. Then the earth heaves in random, convulsive waves, jolting the mountain in its fury. But God is not in the earthquake. Then fire streaks down from the firmament, blazing a path of destruction around the old man. But God is not in the fire. Finally, a stillness descends. From the midst of a gentle breeze, a serene whisper from the heart of God beckons the man of God a second time.
“Elijah, what are you doing … here? Here is not where you’re supposed to be. Here is not who you’re supposed to be. I have more for you, so much more. But you cannot accomplish what I have for you out here in the wilderness, hiding in the shadows of a cave. Now, go! Be the mighty man of God I have called you to be! Do what I have called you to do!”
The powerful prophet had gotten so distracted and unfocused in his relationship with God that he had forgotten who he was and who was with him.
That is how it is for many believers. Rather than leaning into God for strength to fight the various “Jezebels” who seek to subdue us in the battles of life, we retreat into caves. They are not physical caves as they were for Elijah, but caves of our own making … in the heart. We believe these caverns cloak us, protect us from harm—from the tornadoes, the earthquakes, and the burning, pressing needs of life. And we hide there. Hopefully, only for a season. But tragically, for some, for a lifetime.