Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Manuscript column miniature, circa 1500, from the Omnia collection
And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.
— 2 Kings 2:1-2
Elijah is on his way to his death—a dramatic death foretold by God. His preference is to go alone. Unlike many holy men of his time Elijah doesn't feel the need to flaunt his faith, but rather to approach God quietly and humbly, perhaps remembering the still, small voice heard on Mount Horeb.1 His companion and apprentice prophet, Elisha insists on accompanying him, knowing that this is the last journey they will make together. Elijah's friendship and love for Elisha overrides his preference to spend his final hours alone with God. Elijah's compassion shines out at this moment. Knowing how important this moment is to Elisha he foregoes his need to be alone, adapts his plan to meet the greater need of his friend. The mark of a great man is the ability to let people love him—not fawn over him, worship or admire him, but just simply love him as a man, a friend, a fellow sojourner.
"To be a disciple of Jesus is to allow one's self to be loved." wrote priest and theologian Henri J.M. Nouwen. He was talking about being loved by God, yes, but also by our fellow human. A few years ago, influenced by Nouwen's words, I wrote, "To be fully present I need to now learn how to relinquish to the love of others, an act that requires much greater vulnerability."2 This releasing oneself to others is a mark of deep friendship. It can be hard to learn how to love, but much harder to allow oneself to be loved, but we need both for a true friendship bond to be created and sustained.
1 Mount Horeb is also the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments. It is described in Exodus 3:1 and 1 Kings 19:8 as "The Mountain of God".
2 Discipleship, 14/11/2015