In this celebratory week, Dr. Alice Brown-Collins leads ESN in reflecting on what it means to live in thanksgiving.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” said God. As an intellectual, you may find yourself at this very moment hearing the same question posed to you. But instead of God asking, it is you who asks, “What am I doing here?” Often as intellectuals, we feel isolated and abandoned as Christians on secular campuses. Much like Elijah, we too express our feeling of being the “only one left” that truly believes in the authority of scripture. We are distracted, and perhaps conflicted, by our personal history and our history on campus. Such distractions become the prevailing and defining narrative of our lives rather than God’s love and His purposes.
God presents a question that is very similar to that which was asked of Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” In both cases, God presents a question that pricks the consciousness of humanity. It is a rhetorical question that is meant to unveil the uncertainties of our belonging. For those of us who have heard the same question, we must understand that God merely wants us to come to terms with what we are doing in our present location albeit in the physicality of time, the intellectual pursuit of academia, and/or the spiritual quest for God and God’s presence. In hearing the question posed to Elijah, there is an undergirding statement that must also be addressed and that is the statement of presence. God’s question is tempered with connotations. If you are here, then you can’t possibly be over there. If you are in this space, then you can’t possibly be in my space. We are tempted to say to God, “If you are over there, then you can’t possibly be over here with me, God, in my presence.” How do we sense God’s presence? So that we do not find ourselves hiding within the cave of uncertainty, God desires that we do the opposite of what we, as intellectuals, do and stand still. We must move ourselves from a place of hiding, over qualifying, or uncertainty and to a place of simplistic gratitude. Let us negate the voices in our educational experience that deny the powerful “gentle whisper” of our God. Let us stand still, and let us begin to thank God where we are.
We can find God and draw encouragement as we decide, in our stillness, to:
- Study the word
- Be in community with other believers
- Stop listening to negativity
“What are you doing here?” God asks Elijah. We’ve addressed the spiritual connotation but there is also the physical. Let us assume that we know where we are in our spiritual anchoring; what, then, are we doing on our campuses and in our neighborhoods as we manifest that which was discovered in our stillness? One possible option is to serve others in need and be genuinely thankful while doing it. Serving God builds hope. Serving God builds thankfulness. Serving God moves us from cave to communal fellowship. Where are you? And what are you doing right where you are? In our next entry, we will discover how thanksgiving is not a one-time event discovered in our stillness, it is a journey that will define our transformation of mind, soul, and spirit. So let the journey begin—and let it begin with thanksgiving.
- How do you enter into the presence of God?
- How does serving others help you to be thankful?
Oh Lord, as we think about where we are, let us remember where You are. Let us seek You and find You. As we discover You, let us understand where we are, serving our neighborhoods, our institutions, our churches, and our families and friends. Amen.
Image: Sandstone, The Wave, courtesy of Norman Bosworth, Norm_Bosworth at Pixabay.