The term outlier has come into contemporary use detached from its meaning in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, which put the word into our parlance. Many equate outlier with anomaly, but for Gladwell the term is more robust. It refers to extraordinary proficiency attained by ordinary people who have the persistence to put in ten thousand repetitions of their chosen craft. Gladwell’s work reinforces the old adage that persistence pays off.
In a culture that increasingly demands instant response and gratification, we can easily forget that the spiritual journey has always been one of dogged persistence. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Ruth—all march across our memories with God-graced determination. Elisha follows a great tradition as he purposefully follows Elijah, convinced that if he remains resolute, he will come to know the blessing of this outlier prophet and the glory of their outlier god. He is not disappointed. Both Elisha and Elijah are rewarded with what they patiently seek. Elijah gloriously meets God, and Elisha receives the mantle of Elijah’s prophetic authority. Significantly, both men experience the pure beauty of excellence as they continue together “walking and talking.” Persistence pays off.
God is with us for the long haul of our lives. It comes as no surprise that the trek requires determined, watchful waiting on our part along the way. Thanks be to God.
O God of fire and whirlwind, grant us a stalwart spirituality that knows you are the light at the end of our sometimes long tunnels. Amen.
In the week leading to Transfiguration Sunday, the texts all deal with holy, transforming light; but they also speak to the awkwardness of waiting for and finally experiencing that light. Elisha’s is a stop-and-go pilgrimage before he sees the chariots of fire. Our psalmist proclaims the march of the sun across the sky while also waiting for the eschatological arrival of God’s justice for God’s people. Paul empathizes with the believers in Corinth who are having to wait and work to “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up a mountain where they wait and are terrified by the cloud of glory that overshadows them.
• Read Psalm 50:1-6. If your life was like the sun arcing across the sky from sunrise to sunset, where in the daytime arc are you right now? What justice would you like to take part in creating before your life sets in the west?
• Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. In what areas of your life do you feel blinded to the light God wants to shine there?
• Read 2 Kings 2:1-12. Think of a time you have felt most blessed by God. How long did you wait for that blessing? Was it worth the wait?
• Read Mark 9:2-9. Recall your last "mountaintop" experience with Christ. How would you describe it? How did that experience change you?
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