“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~Augustine
I saw a biographical piece the other day on Gloria Steinem, where, describing her earlier years, she talked about how fatigued she was from traveling. I’m not as active as she was in those days, but I have the same general complaint. What is it about traveling that is so exhausting?
Now that I am old, you could say it’s my age, but I’ve been this way all my life. One time, years ago, I came home from a 10-day trip, fell into bed, and didn’t wake for over 48 hours. I arose thinking it was the next day and learned it was the day after. How could I have been so tired?
Even after sleep, I don’t snap back right away. After I return, it usually takes me a week or more to feel normal again. Nowadays when I travel, I have to leave about every third day unscheduled as a day of rest. People tell me: “You look really tired.” Like the woman in the Geritol commercial, but there is no tonic for this ailment.
Part of it is the workout with luggage, portfolio, laptop, and handbag. Part of it is the change of temperature—outdoor to indoor—sun to shade—resulting fatigue that even a hot shower, a bold coffee, and a tall orange juice won’t cure. Part of it is sleep deprivation—the feeling that 8-9 hours of sleep isn’t enough—you need more. A day lounging in bed isn’t enough—a week would be good.
It makes me think of the incident with the Prophet Elijah after his victory on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). The contest between the prophet of God and the prophets of Baal must have been an all-day event. They must have started in the morning because at noon (18:27), Elijah was mocking his competitors over their ineptness. They were still carrying on at midday (18:29). It was evening (18:36) before Elijah got to show his stuff. Afterward he had more than a moment of prayer (18:42), and, then, he outran King Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel (18:44-46). It had to have been night by this time! Probably dusk if not dark.
Now, if you’re a traveler, as I am, you read that schedule with a bit of wonder. Elijah had done more than a full day’s work. How had he kept up the pace? The only thing I can figure is that he was running on adrenaline—and you know where that’s going to leave you.
And preachers the world over have bad-mouthed Elijah over what happened in the next chapter (1 Kings 19). Because Queen Jezebel posted a “wanted dead or alive” price on Elijah’s head—and he ran (19:3).
I don’t care what a thoughtless preacher says about Elijah running from Jezebel. I have nothing but sympathy for him. Jezebel had done no work. A mere spectator, if that, she was still fresh and fit—sitting on the sidelines. And Elijah had done nothing but work. He was too exhausted to fight anymore—this day. I figure it’s a smart fellow that knows when to call time.
God knew. Why don’t preachers take their cue from God’s attitude toward Elijah?
Some roads aren’t meant to be traveled alone. Elijah didn’t go alone—God went with him.
When he reached Beersheba, Elijah fell exhausted and slept. Wonder how long? Maybe days.
An angel woke him—“touched by an angel”—and fed him. He slept some more. Again the angel woke him and fed him.
Then you know what the angel said? “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (19:7). That was God’s assessment of Elijah’s situation.
And, in the strength of that meal, Elijah went on a 40-day journey to Mount Horeb.
There is nothing in God’s attitude toward Elijah remotely resembling most preachers’ attitude toward Elijah. And if Elijah was acting in the will of God, what right does some preacher have to get on his case because he ran?
There is a lesson here about fatigue, about traveling, and about fighting spiritual battles. If you can get beyond the shortsighted preachers, maybe you can get the message.
When he reached Mount Horeb, Elijah sequestered himself in a cave. By the way, he was not the only prophet in a cave. Obadiah and 100 other prophets were holding up in a cave (18:4), and compared to what they were eating (bread and water), Elijah was doing okay, because he was eating angel food cake—the Bible says the angel baked him a cake (19:6).
The Lord—as if He didn’t know—these are rhetorical questions—asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (19:9).
As if suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, Elijah talked about Mount Carmel. Sometimes it’s good just to air things, don’t you think?
And God told him to go stand outside. When he did, a great wind passed and rent the mountain. An earthquake shook the place. A fire ravaged the forest. Then came a still small voice. God caused the natural disasters, but God wasn’t in them: He was in the voice.
Again, God asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (19:13). He knew.
Again Elijah talked about Mount Carmel.
Then the Lord gave him new direction—get your direction before you go for distance. You’ve had enough rest, Elijah. It’s time to move on. Without God we should fear to move; but when He bids us to go, it is dangerous to tarry. “Go to Damascus … anoint Hazael king over Syria … anoint Jehu king over Israel … anoint Elisha as your successor” (19:15, 16) …
“Oh, and by the way, you’re not the last of your kind [cf 18:22; 19:10, 14] … There’s 7,000 faithful followers still in Israel … You’ve still got plenty of work ahead of you.”
Look at Elijah’s itinerary. He started out challenging King Ahab in Samaria (18:2). Then he went to Mount Carmel (18:19). He outran Ahab’s chariot to Jezreel (18:46). He fled to Beersheba (19:3). He took refuge at Mount Horeb (19:8). Last, he headed for Damascus, Syria (19:15). And he did it all on foot!
Have pity! You try doing all that, then tell me Elijah was a coward because he ran from a woman! …
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all” (Vince Lombardi).
By the way, Joseph, prince of Egypt, fled from a woman (Genesis 39:7-12). I’ve never heard anything but kudos for him.
It’s not what people think of you that matters, it’s what God thinks. God showed His regard for Elijah when He took him up in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11).
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson
Copyright © 2011 Alexandra Lee