Monopoly Fails and Dragon Scales
The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
1 Kings 19:15-18
God tells Elijah to do the very thing he least wants to do, ‘Go back the way you came’. Elijah has been forced to flee for his life, and God says, ‘Go back the way you came’. He’s walked for forty days and nights, weak with hunger to reach this place of safety, and God says, ‘Go back the way you came’. He’s discouraged, despondent and depressed, and God tells him to face his failure and fear, saying ‘Go back the way you came’. He’s longing to linger in this holy space of spiritual encounter, but God says, ‘Go back the way you came’.
Isn’t the Lord supposed to be calling me forth to new things, not sending me back to confront painful ones? Why is the Holy Spirit asking me to address areas of fear and failure in my past? Just when I was turning the corner on Park Place, Boardwalk, he says, ‘do not pass go and do not collect your spiritual payday’!
This passage reveals that at times the spiritual way forward is at first a journey back. When we have never dealt with the spiritual baggage from our past, we have the tendency to carry it around with us in the present unawares. What shadows am I running away from that it’s time for me to confront?
There's a scene in one of C.S. Lewis's Narnia books … A boy named Eustace has been turned into a dragon. It's a picture of how sin dehumanizes us. He's invited by the Great Lion Aslan, who's the Christ figure, to bathe in a pool that can cleanse him, that can remake him, that can rebirth him, but first, he's told he has to undress. He's confused about this till he realizes it means he has to shed his old dragon skin. In other words, he has to repent. He tries to do this. It's hard work. It takes a long time, but he peels off that hard, scaly, dragon skin. When he goes to get into the water, he looks down at his foot, and he notices it's just as hard and scaly as it was before he started. In other words, there's a whole layer of dragon skin under the first layer. He tries again, but the same thing keeps happening and he despairs. Then the lion Aslan, Christ, says to him, "You'll have to let Me do it."
When it comes to the sin, dysfunction, and failures of my past, there is work for me to do. I must make a deliberate offering of my spiritual junk of my past before the Lord. It is not enough, however. The Lord must do the deeper work. I have good news for you though. “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to carry it to completion until the day of Christ.” The same one who made you is the one who carries the get out of jail free card for your life. The way forward is at first a way back. Don’t worry though, God is the master of the board. Your spiritual payday is coming!
Would you pray this prayer with me as you begin your day? God, could you take off that hard, scaly stuff around my heart? Let me plunge once more into the pool of your grace that stings and smarts and makes me new again. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.