1 Kings 19:13–14 (NIV)
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
ME: THIS IS THE WAY—
YOU: FROM GLORY TO GLORY!
After all this glory, God asks Elijah the same question again.
What are you doing here, Elijah?
It is a real question for someone who shows up on Mt. Sinai without an invitation.
Elijah’s answer is even more baffling—especially considering he gave the exact same response again.
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.“
Who says this?
Someone whose sense of self and identity is more anchored in what they have done for God than who they are in him . . .
Someone who needs recognition, commendation, validation, and for their own sense of importance to be otherwise affirmed . . .
Someone who needs God and everyone else to know they are somebody and have done something.
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.“
Who says this?
Okay, I’ll go first. I’ve said it.
I think Elijah is looking for a merit badge; a gold star; a jewel in his crown—and I’ll just say it plainly—Elijah is looking for a share of glory. It is perhaps the biggest pitfall on this pathway from glory to glory; the subtle seduction to claim a little of the glory for ourselves; or at least get an “honorable mention,” which is the same thing.
There is something in us all that craves recognition isn’t there? We want our efforts to be noticed, appreciated, and yes recognized. We want this from God, and we really want it from each other. Is it wrong to want this? Well, to give recognition and affirmation and appropriate honor to people is a good thing. The problem comes when we need it and want it and crave it. Why? There is something in all of us that longs for validation based on something other than who we most truly are. Or is it just me?
I used to want to do great things for God, to make a name for myself while making a name for him. I wanted to be seen for something I accomplished rather than for who I really was. Why? Because for the longest time I was not secure in my true self. And when we aren’t secure in our true self, we unwittingly construct a false self. That false self is not necessarily a bad character. They are often quite good people; at least they do good things. They just aren’t real.
The false self is so often built on aspirations and accomplishments undertaken for the secret motive (even hidden from oneself) of affirmation and accolades. I used to be really good at subtly letting people know how much I had accomplished and the achievements I had amassed. Did you know I did this and that; started this thing and led that thing. There was a time when I would have stealthily snuck these things into a post like this. I would want people I perceived as important to know about the people I knew who were more important than they were, which in a self-deceptive way made me feel more important than they were too. And deep in the recesses of my still-being-sanctified soul I’m sure there is a subterranean motivation to be so vulnerable here in order to be admired and commended by you. In reality, what I am attempting here is public confession and repentance. LJCHMOMAS!*
Do you know what is at the heart of all these shenanigans? My own broken need for a glory of my own. It is not unique to me but common to us all. This could be at the very core of the core of the fall of humanity. We wanted to be like God. We wanted his glory for ourselves. We wanted to be exalted. We wanted to make a name for ourselves. We are good to share the glory with God, but not before claiming some of it for ourselves and then trying to deny it. That’s what’s going on when we say things like,
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.”
This is something that never needs to be said. There was something in Elijah that needed to say it. There is something in me too.
So often I hear people saying things like, “It’s not about me.” I find myself scratching my head in wonder, thinking, “who thought it was about you?” The only reason we might say such a thing is because in a place much deeper than we want to recognize, we do think it is about us. There is a reason one feels compelled to say these words. Our very words and the need to speak them betray us.
Have you ever noticed how people when complimented for some good they have done in service of God, will try to deflect the recognition and say something like, “God gets all the glory.” It’s just another way of saying look how zealous I have been for Jesus. It’s better to just say thank you and honor the one who recognized you and then get back to the humble business of being a joyful bondservant of Jesus.
One more thing. Never ever, ever say this, even if you actually think it:
“I am the only one left.” ;0)
This is the way—from glory to glory.
Abba Father, all of this thirsting for glory; I will just name it: pride. And I will name pride for what it is: the unhealed wounds of a broken and insecure soul. I am looking for your glory to hide the real shame of the real me. It’s why the cross is all at once so heinous and beautiful. There we see ourselves in the frame of the Pierced One, our shame being covered by his naked body; our brokenness healed by his suffering; our own counterfeit glory we reached for in Eden at the tree of shame, now shattered by the resplendence of the glory of God in Jesus Christ, lifted high on the tree of life. This mystery is too wonderful for us; to lofty for us to attain. Yet you give it to us so freely. How we thank you. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen.
How do you struggle with these thoughts today? Am I the only one?
For the Awakening,
*Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner.