A friend drove fifteen miles Monday night to deliver me a photograph of a man named Elijah, because we shared a powerful history with him. More than moved I was, because that man shone the light of God when I was in in the deepest, darkest hell. He died several years ago, and I thought I had missed the chance to thank him. Now that I see his beautiful face in a photo, he’s alive again to me, and this post is for him. The text below is from my forthcoming book, Going Naked, Being Seen: Mary Magdalene and the Return to God,
A smell hit me as I walked down the stairs to the intake desk. The air was heavy and the floors were dirty. Walking toward the desk, my eyes slowly adjusted to the dark basement. I felt eyes upon me as I descended the steps. A very tall black man gestured me to sit on a chair next to the desk. He radiated safety to me, so I sat down.
“Good afternoon, ma’am, my name is Elijah. I will be doing the intake interview.”
My heart opened at the sound of his deep, resonant voice and was comforted by his biblical name. Elijah spoke softly but with conviction,
“Don’t talk to the men around here. On the other side of the hall is the half way house. You are a beautiful woman and we don’t want any trouble.”
“Okay, thank you for the warning. I’m grateful to be here, but I’m scared. I think it’s just the withdrawal symptoms.”
I don’t know why I said that because I had no idea about the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. But, my denial was penetrated by the unmistakable physical symptoms I was experiencing. My hands were trembling and I began to feel very jumpy. That is when I began to know why I landed here in this dark and dirty and chaotic place. My inner being was seeing through my sensations and they were a match to the environment. Here, where we were all desperate and angry and strung out and kicked out and left out, broken and lost.
Elijah asked me a series of questions about my drinking. For the first time in my life, I answered them honestly. He was patient and comforting and he sang through my pauses and my tears. Gospel songs that I hadn’t t heard in so long welcomed me to the truth about what separated me from myself and everything else that tried to penetrate my heart. I didn’t know what to call it, but it felt like shame. It felt so good to be with Elijah, but he only worked eight hour shifts.
Before he left that night, he gave me some toiletries and took me to the women’s clothing room where I chose a few things to wear. Shame had separated me from others in the past, but it didn’t here. I was not only withdrawing from alcohol, I was unburdening myself from defenses and I was accepting help.~ Chapter 3 To See as She Sees.
It was in that dark and dangerous dungeon that I began to feel the light of God, because Elijah reflected it so beautifully. He undoubtedly did the same for many, many others. He was a real life prophet to me, and I feel such love for him, and for the light he prepared me to know. He looks a bit like the big, beautiful and gifted prisoner in The Green Mile. But, should he ever appear to you, he might look different. You will feel the light though, because you’ll have had enough of the darkness, and it will melt an opening in your heart, just like it did to me.
God Bless you Elijah; you are with me as I “trudge the happy road of destiny.”
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Elijah ( /ɨˈlaɪdʒə/ or /ɨˈlaɪʒə/; also Elias /ɨˈlaɪ.əs/; Hebrew: אֱלִיָּהוּ, Eliyahu, meaning “My God isYahweh“; Arabic:إلياس, Ilyās), was a famous prophet and a wonder-worker in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of Ahab (9th century BC), according to the Biblical Books of Kings as well as the Qur’an. According to the Books of Kings, Elijah defended the worship of Yahweh over that of the Phoenician god Baal; he raised the dead, brought fire down from the sky, and was taken up in a whirlwind (either accompanied by a chariot and horses of flame or riding in it). In the Book of Malachi, Elijah’s return is prophesied “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord,”making him a harbinger of the Messiah and the eschaton in various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible. Derivative references to Elijah appear in the Talmud, Mishnah, the New Testament, and the Qur’an.
In Judaism, Elijah’s name is invoked at the weekly Havdalah ritual that marks the end of Shabbat, and Elijah is invoked in other Jewish customs, among them the Passover seder and the Brit milah (ritual circumcision). He appears in numerous stories and references in the Haggadah and rabbinic literature, including the Babylonian Talmud.
In Christianity, the New Testament describes how both Jesus and John the Baptist are compared with Elijah, and on some occasions, thought by some to be manifestations of Elijah, and Elijah appears with Moses during the Transfiguration of Jesus.
Elijah is also a figure in various folkloric traditions. In Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania, he is known as “Elijah the Thunderer” and in folklore is held responsible for summer storms, hail, rain,thunder, and dew.