I participated in a Half Marathon (HM) last year on the beautiful Isle of Tiree. There was plenty of company for the first part, run alongside the 10k race, but then came a ‘turn-off’ to the rest of the HM route. No doubt there was still competitive company ‘up front’ but by the time I was on that section I was beginning to wonder if I was the last runner. It turned out there was one person behind me who began to catch me up, and for several miles we chatted, kept each other going, one would pull ahead then we would draw level again.
Although I did not manage to stay with her right to the finish (and struggled in the last couple of miles as a result), that company was important in getting me round a large part of the course, where otherwise I might simply have lapsed to a walk or even given up.
There’s a proverb of uncertain origin that nonetheless gives a helpful insight in running and in life: “If you want to go fast — go alone; if you want to go far — go together”.
Elisha, in our reading today, would indeed ‘go far’, perhaps in part because of his ‘stickability’ with Elijah at this key moment in his life.
Grant me the gift of ‘stickability’
Of hanging on, even when discouraged
Of persisting, though assailed by
the advice of others
Help me not to focus on myself
how I feel
my aches, pains and challenges
but on those I’m with
and on you
my companions for the journey
spurring me on
and help me
to be to them also
that together with you
and for you
we might achieve great things .
1 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel. 3 The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent.’
4 Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they came to Jericho. 5 The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, I know; be silent.’
6 Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them went on. 7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.’ Elisha said, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ 10 He responded, ‘You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.’ 11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, ‘Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.