As I walk around the neighborhood, I feel the weight of a life’s purpose, of mission, and of knowing Christ-followers are sent into the pain of the world to heal, serve tirelessly, speak truth, and comfort the broken. It’s too much. There’s too much to do and too many distractions. And there’s a shadow always following me on the journey that tempts me into a life of ease and wealth and special experiences that represent a certain kind of life narrative. In this story, I laugh a lot with friends; I travel to exotic places; I feel fulfilled and joyful and always at peace. In this story, everyone succeeds and nobody suffers.
But that’s not the true narrative. I’m in the biblical story of being sent by God–as we all are–into the crucified life. It’s a journey of obedience, uncertainty, and sacrifice. As I walk, the reality feels painful. It’s doesn’t feel joyful or peaceful or anything like abundant life.
But then I remember a bird and a brook. I tell the Lord: I need the raven! I need the brook!
When God speaks to Elijah in 1 Kings 17, he sends him out. And before he goes, God tells him how He will provide: There will be a river. There will be birds.
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
The scriptures unfold in a moment of beautiful and astonishing clarity: God provides on the journey through the water and the bird. He does this in Elijah’s life and He does this in ours. How can I not see the theological continuity of another source of water and another bird? Was not God already giving me my own brook and my own bird even now? Consider this: When Jesus arises from the water at His baptism, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove to confirm, strengthen, and love. When Jesus teaches on how we might survive this thirsty existence, we’re told He is “living water” in John 7. We have the living water (the brook), and we have the strengthening and loving Holy Spirit (the bird).
Like Elijah, we have the brook and the bird.