"Elijah found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing...Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you"...He took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant." - I Kings 19:19-21
As a child, the highlight of summer was going to a swimming pool and daring myself into "the deep end." I would inch my toes up until I felt the ground slope away beneath them, take a breath, and push off into open water. There, in the terrible excitement of the deep end, I could no longer depend on the security of solid ground. It was swim or sink.
Elisha is a deep end disciple. When Elijah calls, Elisha builds a fire with his plow and barbecues his team of oxen for the goodbye party! He gives himself no way to turn back. He risks everything, pushing far out into the unknown.
That's faith. It rarely asks us to stand flat-footed with our heads above water. It beckons us to a point where we can't touch. That terrible-exciting place is where we learn to really swim; and where we learn to be disciples; and where, when we get tired enough, we learn to rest in the buoyancy of God.
Spirit who hovered over creation's waters, dare us into the deep waters of action and witness. Teach us a new security, found not in our own strength but in your certain, gentle embrace.
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.