THE CLOUD IN THE HORIZON
42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, 43 and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” 44 Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’ “45 Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain.
1 Kings 18:42-45 (NKJV)
The good book has a story of the great prophet who stuck his head betwixt his knees and sent his servant to search the horizon for storm clouds. The man servant went six times returning with a negative report and finally on the seventh time came despicably announcing in an aside that all that was there was a little speckling of a cloud the size of a man’s fist !
That small man’s fist grew to a massive storm and only Elijah, the prophet who had perceived in the unseen storm was able to outrun its perils.
This set me thinking: in my 35 years of Grace granted life I have plumbed the lowest depths of life, have attempted suicide, have married (and divorced), have had a brush with the law, have stared death in the face a number of times and when all these storms have blown past I always look back and wonder how I got through all this?
All I have to hold on to on such occasions is an event that occurred to me some 21 years ago in a church in the New Luveve suburb. There, a mere 14 year old, I knelt down and recited a prayer asking Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. Unbeknown to me and my cousin Nhlonipho Zondo, in us that day was planted a seed that was to bloom and be a rock, a shade, a refuge, a shield etc in times of peril.
For many years I learnt how to stand boldly and believe in what I stood for, I suffered torment for that to the extent of almost being banished from home. As youths in Christ we endured nights praying in the bush, endured being rained every summer Saturday in the bush in prayer hours when the elders denied us the access to the church for prayers.
I remember being made youth treasurer at 14 and my mother blowing up at the ‘enormous’ responsibility I had been entrusted by grownups. I remember leading the district; I remember leading the national youth assembly (the youngest ever presiding chair). I remember crying tears in secret when things were tough and answers were demanded.
I recall being out of school , having one trouser that I would wash on Saturday and dry by ironing, racing to catch all youth sessions. I remember my first job, a national youth leader, sweeping the pavement of Sale House in Bulawayo and all the school dropouts would ask me whether that is what I went to school and church for. I remember the tribalist branch manager who hated me with a passion that made me stronger.
At all prayer sessions I would ask God why I was not having an easy life. I would rave and rant like Job but no thunderbolt miracles emerged.
Today 21 years later I have been through good times , I have lost my faith a number of times, have walked the prodigal son route more than twice, have had near death experiences a number of times and presently have to accept an unenviable situation.
In all this I always have the image of a small boy kneeling on the floor giving his life to Christ. That has been my Elijah moment. I never knew that my small size fist of faith would bring me God’s refreshing storms when all the chips were down. I never knew that even if I fell six times as long as I stood up for the seventh time God’s storms would wash over again and again and leave me clean to smell the fresh life giving moist earth and give ground and grace for re birth.
I refuse to remain down when I am floored because I know I can re scale the mountains. I refuse to gasp and drown when I know that the next lunge might land me on the beach. I refuse to be cowed when I know I am telling the truth. I refuse to be silenced when I know speaking out will make a lot of difference.
When we face challenges in life I ask that we take time like Elijah:
Retreat to your inner self (Elijah put his face between his knees)
Retreat to a refuge that you know (he knew God will bring the rain even if there was no sign in the first six reports)
Have the confidence even in the face of ridicule and have the energy to outrun the storm!
Only people who have the perception and insight of what is in the way have the capacity to handle it and it all starts on the day of that small cloud.
Every one of us has that cloud. Most of us miss the cloud that seeds the torrents because we do not want to put our heads between our knees, defy gravity, defy the odds and let the divine take over.
Today as you go through this may you find that small fist of a cloud. It is your buoy in stormy seas, a baobab in desert winds, a parachute in rough landings and an assurance of that the sun will rise again tomorrow.