Parting the Waters, Hearing the Whisper
It was dark and cold. I heard the familiar beeping on that IV pump. I saw the lights, blinking, somewhat rhythmically, somewhat random, somewhat hypnotizing. She was laying there, peace filling her face, but yet, I was afraid. I grabbed that hand of my Elisha friend, the one who named me “Her Elijah” when we were barely teens, seeking, longing, beginning the journey of hard life.
My Elisha friend and I, we sat at the bedside of our friend, our sister friend who was filled with an almost eerie peace, so supernatural that it was almost too much to take in – the flood of memories and hopes for her future, for our future together coming to a rushing stop…and that was the first time I realized that the waters had parted…and we walked, hand in hand, on that dry land – the rushing dreams silenced…and we existed…we took up but a few moments of time in silence. The water walls were there but they were contained as boards of silent wood, not the rushing water they once were. We looked at our friend lying there in the hospital bed, peace-filled, then at each other, eyes brimming over with salty wet emotion, tears falling tenderly, gently, effortlessly.
My Elisha friend and I…why had she called me “Her Elijah?” And does she even remember that?
In 1 Kings 19 we learn a lot about the life of Elijah and Elisha and about their very sacred friendship. Elijah, attentive to God’s presence in a gentle whisper, a quiet corner, a hidden secret-barely audible…not in the powerful wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks, not in the earthquake, not in the fire…but in the gentle whisper.
I heard the whisper that night. I heard it in my dear sister friend’s voice when she spoke from that hospital bed, eyes closed, of getting ready, ready for whatever it was that God was calling her to, whatever the battle, He would fight for her, of Jesus and His love for her, for us, for my Elisha friend and I. She spoke with conviction, with assurance, but in a whisper…her whisper was piercing the darkness though, as if it had ridged notches, cutting the black, slicing through the fear, the pain and the confusion…and bringing light – even to that dim overhead light on her bed, also familiar to me, a light much like all of those I had mindlessly clicked on in the past for my own patients…but this light was different, inviting, beckoning where two or more are gathered – and we were – we were with Jesus.
I looked at my Elisha friend and I saw her tears and she took my hand and we listened to the whisper of our dear friend, the whisper that was most assuredly a window into heaven, an in-that-moment living and breathing angel.
Elijah certainly heard the hushed utterance of the Spirit and followed that still small voice, without waver, so intent on that whisper… that he arrived at a point of disillusionment, believing he was the only one left who was still true to God. This, after seeing the vastness of corruption in the king’s court and priesthood, or in our day, the government, the leading office officials, the tops of the food chain. Though he certainly was not alone in his devotion to God, this only an earthly feeling, God still cared about his feelings and encouraged him. God sent him to anoint three men who would ultimately work to bring the people of Israel back to God, away from destruction and back into the light. One of those three was Elisha, the prophet who would succeed Elijah (Taken from 1 Kings 19).
In 2 Kings 2, Elisha and Elijah’s friendship was taken to another level. Elisha refused to leave Elijah, even though this was Elijah’s request, three times, so that he could carry out the Lord’s commands. Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” Following Elisha’s third proclamation of commitment to his mentor, Elijah took off his cloak, the most important article a man could own in those times and rolled it up, and struck the water of the Jordan with it, which divided the water to the right and the left and the men crossed on dry ground. (verses 1-8)
Shortly after this miraculous event, Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (he was essentially asking to be Elijah’s heir, the one who would continue Elijah’s work as leader of the prophets) and it was granted to him as Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind, the one who was attentive to the beauty of the God whisper. Elisha then took the cloak of his mentor and struck the water with it. And, just as with Elijah’s striking, the same water parting occurred with his successor, and the people knew that the Spirit of Elijah rested with Elisha.
Thinking about this story and about my Elisha friend, I paused and considered this. Did she consider me one who was leading her, leading her to God and his truth… helping her hear the whisper? And I think about all of the times that she has been there with me, has not left me, no matter my struggle a true plight or petty concern. My plight that night was of deep soul gripping sadness over the knowledge that my friend, my sister friend, who lie in that hospital bed had a diagnosis that has a name but it’s shortened life span description haunted the core of my being. And, my Elisha friend, she walked on that dry land with me. Maybe I struck the ground a long time ago, but she struck it that night. She had a light in her eyes, anew, alert, hungry…for God. She brought me the comfort of the dry land amidst the water walls all around, threatening to crash at any moment…but somehow, her presence, her peace…there with our sick sister…allowed the dry land to almost whisper itself.
My mind raced back. It raced back to the cold bathroom floor that I stared through, as I listened to my sister friend, as she spoke of her new diagnosis, not fully knowing the implications of it…but I did. I listened, I begged every bargain I could with the Lord, make this the wrong diagnosis. Take this burden away. I heard my sister friend, her voice, peace filled and I realized that at that moment, she was my Elijah friend, I the Elisha. She struck that very ground that I could not even see for the pain. She parted the rushing water that had become my tears…she spoke of God’s goodness and promise as if she had perhaps…even seen Him.
That day she also spoke of our friend, my Elisha friend, saying…if all of this is for her to see and know the love of the Lord, it is well worth it, well worth the diagnosis of shortened life span, of uncertainty, of unknowns…and that water, she parted it again. She rolled up her cloak, her cloak that was God’s very armor, and she struck the ground that was my rushing fear…and God, again, came near in a whisper. In a voice, only audible to those whose hearts have been humbled, and broken by the raw pain that this world brings. The whisper that beckons. The Holy Spirit whisper. That whisper that pulls us in… to bathe in the the quiet peace of the Lord.
I remember another story in the Bible about the parting of the water…about Moses parting the water and I remember these verses…
In Exodus verse 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
In Exodus verse 14:16-17, 21-22 “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them…Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
Shortly after the Egyptians who pursued them were consumed by the water that Moses called back into place and were destroyed. Before their demise, the Egyptians recognized the one who was in control, saying…in 14:25, ““Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
God came near when all was still. He came near when the waters parted, but it took an act of purpose to part those waters.
Elijah, Elisha and Moses all had the power to part the rushing waters of the sea. This was not their power, but the power of the Lord. Let me suggest that we all have this power to part the raging, rushing, ruminating, hamster-wheel-getting-no-where water walls on either side of us. We have the power to be still and let God do the fighting for us. We have the power to hear His whisper in the midst of the stillness, as we allow him to do our bidding, our fighting…
The waters were parted that night when my dear friend lie in the hospital bed… and all was calm – all was still and we didn’t hear that rushing water, we heard the whisper. But, it took ground striking as all three of us took turns rolling up our cloaks, our fears, and using them, instead, as God’s weapons, as instruments of peace, as symbols of complete surrender.
That night, we three were gathered there, the waters parted, the God of Angel Armies fighting for us… and we heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit. But, hearing that whisper took a step of faith in believing the impossible, believing in the power, the gripping rescue of the very presence of God. It also took a supernatural kind of trust, power and love.
In that whisper, that night, the waters of life parted on either side of us, we heard more than some people hear in a lifetime.