Sometimes I wonder, “How would the lives of our spiritual forefathers and mothers written about in the Old Testament have been different if they’d just had a good PTSD counselor to help them see their trauma?” I’m speaking of not only personal trauma from surviving every sort of abuse imaginable—from oppression, to slavery, to rape—but also of collective trauma from events such as parents offering their children as living sacrifices to the “gods”.
Hebrew prophets went to great lengths to help their people to see this collective trauma. At times they rolled in dung, starved themselves, laid in the center of the city bound in tight ropes, were eaten by lions or hung upside down on a cross, and wailed in unattended grief for things never done personally to them. Nonetheless, God gave them a mantel of pain, a shared participation in the sin and suffering of others to wear, usually all the way to their death.
Of all the prophets’ stories, the relationship of Elijah and Elisha are the most dear to me. I have read them thousands of times, but recently, a fresh point occurred to me.
As Elisha follows Elijah all the way to the end of his earthly journey—even though Elijah keeps trying to send him away—they cross the river Jordon. Elijah, the mentor, strikes the Jordon with his cloak, miraculously parting the water so that they may part on dry land.
After Elijah’s quite sorted and emotional departure in a whirlwind (2Kings 2), Elisha circles back around to the river Jordon—this time absent his mentor. It is his moment.
Will he stop, turn back, pray for God to do something? No. Even with his mentor gone, he applies what he has been taught. He removes his own cloak and strikes the water. The river parts; alone, Elisha walks across the riverbed on dry land.
The passage made me smile, remembering that when Elijah first found Elisha plowing his father’s field, he ran past him pulling his cloak from his own shoulders and tossing it across the young man’s. Thus, their journey had come full circle and with Elijah’s passing, Elisha came into authority.
I find myself full of gratitude for the many “Elijahs” with whom I have shared legs of the journey, but one stands out among them all. Charlene Bell Tosi, author of Discover Your Woman Within: Journey into Wholeness.
Char first took me under wing thirty-something years ago. In the decades that we have shared, she has confronted me, comforted me, and mentored me through much personal and collective trauma, loss, and grief. Regardless of which role she needed to fill at any given moment, her unconditional love is what came through the strongest.
Take a some time to reflect upon who the “Elijahs” of your life have been, and perhaps, who the next one might be to guide you farther down the path.
Love, your sister along the journey,
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