Moving On Without Our Mentors
Sometimes a glimpse of God’s power might produce both emotions of joy and sadness. There is a moment that is like this in the reading from Second Kings for this Sunday. Elijah knows his time on earth is coming to an end. He is walking with his student, Elisha, and preparing Elisha for his departure. Then suddenly the Scripture says, “As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.” I can imagine the awe and excitement that Elisha was feeling as he watched his mentor be taken up in the whirlwind! I can imagine the joy he might have experienced in witnessing God’s power in seeing the chariot and horses of fire. But the text also says that the chariots and horses of fire separated the two of them. Elisha can no longer be close to Elijah. He can no longer walk and talk and learn from his mentor. I can imagine that this may have been a great sadness to Elisha. The older prophet is passing the mantle down to his student, but I can imagine the anxiety that may have filled Elisha in knowing that he was now on his own and he would no longer have access to the advice of his teacher.
It can be hard when someone we have looked up to or gone to for insight and advice has to move on. Maybe the person has gotten a new job and is moving to a new area. Maybe the person has retired and will no longer be at work. Maybe the person has died and will longer be in our lives. These can be times when we feel joy for people as they have gotten a new position or will have new adventures. Even in dying there might be feelings of relief if the person was suffering or we might see God’s power manifesting itself in a peace that comes over the one who is dying. But in each case we may also feel left behind wondering what to do next. We may feel deep sadness that the person is not with us. We may feel anxiety knowing that we are the next generation and the mantle has been passed down to us. But are we ready for it? Can we keep going without our parent, friend or teacher?
In the story of Elijah’s leaving the old prophet asks his student what he can do for him before he goes and the younger prophet says he would like a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. It is a hard thing he has asked for, but Elijah says it will be granted if the younger prophet is able to see Elijah being taken away. Sure enough Elisha is able to see the older prophet being taken up into heaven. This means the younger prophet is going to have the same spirit of resolve, strength and insight that the older prophet did, and even more so. Could it be comforting to know that the spirit of our parents, friends, and teachers might live on in us? Are there ways that you have carried on the wisdom or insights you have gained from your mentors? How might this help us move on in ways that would honor their legacy and the way we saw God’s power work through them?
– Pastor Erik