Elijah's Cloak or My Father's Shirt

Without the robe of righteousness, we would freeze in this cold, hostile world.

Hannele Ottschofski is editor of the TEAM newsletter for pastoral spouses in the Baden-Württemberg Conference. A native Finn, she has lived in Sweden, England, France, Africa, and Germany. She has four daughters who are still able to laugh about life in the parsonage. Hannele loves music and books

When my father died, I flew to Sweden to be with my mother. After all, my sister and brother live still farther away, and I was the only one who could come right away. So many things needed attention. We went to the nursing home where my father had lived for the last four years of his life and gathered his personal belongings. While packing his things, I found a lovely soft flannel shirt he had often worn in the last few years.

"I'll take this along," I said to my mother.

I love to wear this shirt at home. I feel safe and cozy. I have often wondered why I feel so good when I'm wearing the shirt. I think it has something to do with my father’s heritage. I’m talking about his spiritual heritage, some­thing his father passed on to him, too.

My father found the Lord as a young boy and was baptized with his whole family. His parents made it pos­sible for their sons to get the best education possible in Adventist schools so that they would be able to serve the Lord. And that is what my father did. He served the Lord with all his might. His faith in God was not shaken. And he passed on this devotion and dedication to us, his children. I always wanted to serve the Lord like he did; there was never a doubt about that.

And now that my father’s life is over, I can say that my father, like Paul, has fought the good fight. "I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord . . . will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).

And that brings me back to my father’s heritage, something I have symbolically put on with his shirt. My father gave my life a goal, a sense of service. He fulfilled his duty, and now it's my turn to fulfill mine. My mission is different from his. But his dedication to the Lord is what made the most indelible impression on me.

And so the shirt has become a symbol of my heritage, just as Elijah's cloak was a symbol of the spirit and mission that Elisha inherited from his master (see 2 Kings 2:2-16). Elijah was a man of great faith. He had divided the waters of the River Jordan with his cloak to cross to the other side. And then he asked Elisha if there was anything he could do for him before he was taken away. Elisha asked him for a double portion of his faith, double in relation to what the other prophets would get. Elijah couldn't guarantee it—it was God who gave the Spirit. When Elijah was taken up in the fiery chariot, Elisha tore his cloak as a sign of mourning. But then he saw Elijah's cloak on the ground. He picked it up. As he had torn his own cloak, so he could tear this one.

But now he was on the other side of the river, and he wanted to go back. He did exactly as Elijah had done: he rolled up the cloak and struck the water with it. The water divided, and he crossed the river on dry ground. When the rest of the prophets saw him return, they recognized Elijah's cloak and said, "The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha." And so Elijah's duty and responsibility passed on to Elisha.

My father's duties as a treasurer have passed on to other people long ago. That is no concern of mine. But his spiritual heritage, his dedication to God, is something I want to retain.

There is a word that I want to mention in this context: mentoring. A mentor is an (older) experienced teacher or counselor. It is his duty to encourage, inspire, and challenge others to make the most of the gifts they have been given. As women we should be an inspiration to other women. The older woman has a special role in this. Ideally, she has successfully navigated her boat through the storms of life, whereas younger women are still battling the storms. With their experience, older women can be like lighthouses, giv­ing hope to younger women that there will be solutions for their problems as well.

Maybe you are thinking now of a woman who has been an inspiration in your life, who believed in you and your possibilities and encouraged you. Maybe you could write a note to her or call her (if she is still alive) and ex­press appreciation for her help. Maybe you are thinking of somebody in your neighborhood or among your friends for whom you can be a mentor yourself. Such relation­ships often develop spontaneously, but we could even start looking for somebody to encourage.

This is something that is very important for me as a mother with four daughters. The relationship between mother and daughter is not always easy, even though we mothers try to delicately pass on our values to our daugh­ters. Now and then I notice that some seeds I have tried to plant in their hearts are beginning to grow. But I am happy when my daughters find a "second mother" in the church. I thank God for the women who have lovingly cared for my daughters. Positive relationships have grown and good memories have been made that will support them in hard times when everything else seems to crack.

Do you need a soft, warm cloak? I do. Do you have a cloak to pass on to somebody else? In my case, there is a cloak hanging in God's wardrobe, waiting for me. All I have to do is to go and ask for it and put it on, leaving my old filthy clothes at the foot of the cross. We read in Isaiah 61:10, “My soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” We need these garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness. Without them we’ll never make it. We would freeze in this cold, hostile world.

My father showed me the way. When I wear his shirt, I'm reminded of his example. Do you want to wear a soft, warm cloak? Come with me to God's storehouse. There's a robe and a crown waiting for me, “and not only [for] me, but also [for] all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

Hannele Ottschofski is editor of the TEAM newsletter for pastoral spouses in the Baden-Württemberg Conference. A native Finn, she has lived in Sweden, England, France, Africa, and Germany. She has four daughters who are still able to laugh about life in the parsonage. Hannele loves music and books