It was August 2014 and I was siting with Bible in hand, tears on my cheeks, and the Word of God ringing in my ears, as I sat under the powerful preaching of Francis Chan during the Oxygen Conference held in Sydney. Over the course of four days, I had the immense privilege of experiencing first hand the ministry of men I had only admired and respected from afar. Hour after hour, the Word of God went out, resounding songs of deep heart worship filled the space shared with thousands of other ministers of the Gospel. By my side, sat two people of whom I count among my dearest friends on earth, two people who heard what I heard, saw what I saw, and with whom I could eat and laugh.
God was at work. The Holy Spirit powerfully wielded the Word in that place. I have no doubt that hundreds, if not thousands, of lives and ministries were altered in profound ways over those four days.
Then I came home.
Within the space of 24 hours, I found myself sharing the shade with Elijah under a Broom tree.
My wife had been sick with the flu before I left to attend Oxygen14, but had been feeling better in the few days prior to me leaving. Unknown to me, while I was away, a secondary lung infection set in and had begun its destructive work. I came home to a very sick wife. The last week has been a flurry of Doctor's visits and a trip to the hospital for X-Rays, an ECG, various blood tests, etc. Meanwhile, my four children needed to be fed, cleaned, dressed, packed for school, fed again, cleaned again, packed for school again… and so it goes on.
I'm thankful that God graciously spared me from growing resentful toward my wife and children, but in the private recesses of my mind, and when all was finally quiet at night, I slumped down into the shade of the Broom tree beside Elijah.
1 Kings 18 – 19, is a sweeping narrative that moves between two mountains, via a Broom tree.
At Mt Carmel, Elijah saw God in the thunderous fire from heaven that consumed the alter. At Mt Carmel, God showed up in unmistakable ways.
Later, at Horeb, the mountain of God, the LORD revealed himself not through fire, but instead a gentle whisper. Hiding in a cave, Elijah saw all the usual metaphors of God's power and might sweep past, yet finally found his God in the gentle whisperings of the Almighty.
But between these two mountains lay a desert and a tree. Under this Broom tree Elijah would lie down in despair and seek to escape life itself.
And I've been keeping him company.
What did Elijah have to learn? And what have I learnt? And maybe, what must you learn, in the shadow of the Broom tree?
We must all learn of the sustaining goodness of our God for the journey.
We must not fall into the trap of only seeing God on the mountain tops of life; falsely believing that if we soak enough of Him in during those moments that it will sustain us until the next peak. God is in the valley also. God is in the dry and barren places. God meets us in the shadow of the Broom tree. And in all those places, God sustains us with what is needed for the journey ahead.
God moved powerfully in my life during Oxygen14. I am grateful for His grace shown to me over those four days. But it's been here, in the kindness of my church family, in the countless meals dropped over, the thoughtful messages left, the prayers of the saints, the generosity of extended family, that God revealed himself. God has been here also.
So savour Him on the mountain tops when He shows up with burning fire, and hear Him in the cleft of the rock when He gently whispers your name, and learn to see Him in the shadow of the Broom tree, as He lays out a feast of His sustaining goodness and bids you eat.