Whirlwind, Earthquake, and Fire...

OCTOBER 31, 2008

In August, four Friends of the Groom actors went on a long-needed spiritual retreat directed by company member Colleen Scheid. On the first morning, we spent about three hours in silence contemplating an episode from the life of Elijah. Fresh from his greatest triumph—a showdown with the priests of Baal in which God sends fire from heaven—Elijah immediately falls into a depression.  He has just performed a leading role in a miracle, but when the show closes, the world goes on unchanged and Elijah is still pursued by his enemies.  He ends up in a cave complaining to God and feeling isolated and alone. The roller-coaster progression from high to low is a familiar one for those with artistic temperaments—particularly actors.   

In the cave, God asks Elijah, “Why are you here?”, and then sends a whirlwind, an earthquake, and a fire—none of which reveal His presence. Instead, after all the drama, Elijah experiences God as a “still small voice”—repeating the original question: “Why are you here?”

We’ve had plenty of wind lately. The remnants of hurricane Ike passed through Cincinnati last month, knocking out power for over a million people—in some neighborhoods for over a week. And as I watch the plunging economy, I feel like the earth is moving out from under me. Will we have enough money to operate? And why—after fifteen years of procrastination—did I move two-thirds of my retirement money from a money market to a mutual fund the day before the crash? Whirlwind, earthquake...can fire be far behind? And where is God’s voice in all of this?

I heard an answer at the retreat: God is still speaking in the voice he has always used —a quiet voice that keeps redirecting me to the central question: Why are you here?  And the answer in all circumstances is the same: To love God, to love those close to you, and to reach out to others with the gifts you’ve been given. And so, despite the whirlwind around us, our work continues. We have a number of exciting events planned for the months ahead—a production of our Christmas show, Nativity on the Square; our character education show in schools; and—for the first time ever—a mission trip to Greece. 

At the retreat, we also heard a passage from writer Annie Dillard, who described a moth flying into a candle flame. The moth is destroyed, but its skeleton acts as a wick—burning brightly for hours. As Christian artists, we are called to give ourselves to Christ’s flame. And like Elijah, we may have highs and lows, but the mission remains the same: to let heaven’s fire reach the world through us.