So Elijah departed from there and found Elisha, Shaphat’s son. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him. Elisha was with the twelfth yoke. Elijah met up with him and threw his coat on him. Elisha immediately left the oxen and ran after Elijah.
–1 Kings 19:19-20
Resilience is the individual’s skill of bouncing back from trauma in a way that restores and strengthens the whole community. Resilience recognizes that the “me” is caught up in and needs the “we.” For most of his career, Elijah was a solo prophet, him against the powers that be and the world. And he won, mostly. But, just before the events in chapter 19, Elijah finds himself running into the desert escaping a death threat, and begging God to just let him die already. After several rounds of back and forth with God, God finally says: Well, go and anoint Elisha to follow you as a prophet and then we’ll see. Elijah’s call as a prophet is more than standing up for truth and seeking justice—part of his work is also identifying and empowering the truth-tellers and justice-seekers who will come after him. Resilience is remembering that you are not the last person to take up this mantle, and to throw your mantle onto someone else and empower them to continue carrying on this work. The Bible emphasizes how Elijah is in this work alone, but as soon as he invites Elisha, the younger man gives an enthusiastic yes. Elisha doesn’t just abandon his plow and ox in the field, but sets the plow on fire and roasts the slaughtered ox on it, throwing a big feast so that all his neighbors know his life is radically transformed. Elisha’s work won’t look exactly like Elijah’s. But, instead of insisting that Elisha follow in his footsteps, Elijah teaches him the basic steps of the dance and trusts that Elisha’s improvisations and embellishments will continue the legacy.
Takeaway: It is hard to trust someone else to continue your work. But look around and–who is coming behind you in your work (paid work, volunteer work, church work)? Who is eager and capable of continuing your projects? Identify one of those people and reach out to them with encouragement. Compliment their work or empower them to take leadership. Trust that their approach to this project will not look exactly like yours—but you, also, took the legacy of those before you and added your own embellishments. We are all in this together, not only across space, but across time.
Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).