by Rami Shapiro
“Why are you here?”
God poses this question to the prophet Elijah — not once, but twice (I Kings 19:9 and 13). Elijah receives it while hiding in a cave and answers God from the ego’s perspective: he affirms his love of God and complains about the Israelites abandoning God and seeking to murder him. God ignores this and calls Elijah to stand outside the cave. When he does so, Elijah experiences a mountain-shattering wind, an earth-shattering quake, and a terrifying inferno. God was in none of these, and when the inferno ceased, Elijah heard “the fragile sound of silence.” Again, God asks, “Why are you here, Elijah?” Having learned nothing from the wind, earth, and fire, Elijah simply repeated himself: he loves God, the Israelites have abandoned God, and now they want to kill him. God responds, “Go back the way you came.”
I read the Bible as a parable, meaning God’s question to Elijah is also God’s question to you and me. In its essence, this encounter between God and Elijah is a teaching about allowing challenges to move us beyond our cave-hiding self into the spaciousness of our divine Self. The cave in which Elijah hid represents the hideouts in which we all can take refuge from the chaos of life. So ask yourself, where are you hiding? What -ism, ideology, belief, or story do you cling to that keeps you from moving from self to Self?
Elijah tries to find meaning in the madness of existence—tornados, earthquakes, and fires—but they just are and have no meaning beyond their simple being. It is only when we exhaust our search for meaning outside ourselves that we hear the fragile sound of silence coming from within us and are presented with the questions such stillness conjures up.
While many of us hear the question, "Why are you here?", few of us can answer it from Self rather than self. How might we answer it when heard from Self? Some scriptural examples include: “I am here to be a blessing to all the families of the earth, all of them: human and otherwise” (Genesis 12:3); “I am here to love God/Reality (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:30), to love my neighbor (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31), and to love the stranger” (Leviticus 19:34).
In short, you are here to live your life in such a way that makes the world a little better for your having been born into it. To be a blessing requires us to step out of our cave, to put aside the constricting narratives that define and separate us, and to understand God as “that in whom we and all life live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Above all else, being a blessing is a sacred art of lovingkindness. This is the religion of the Dalai Lama when he says, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” Living the art of lovingkindness is walking the path of the Bodhisattva; it is walking in harmony with the Tao; it is cultivating what Confucius calls jen (pronounced ren) or human-heartedness and realizing like Julian of Norwich that “I am God. I am everything. I am every happening. I am the endless sharing of creation, and I am the conclusion to which all action leads” (Revelation of Divine Love, 11).
We must release ourselves from the caves in which we hide and walk instead into the vastness of our divinity. Awakening in, with, and as God, the Happening of all happening, is the first step on the journey to being a blessing.