23 November 2009

about faith and believing in the impossible (further reflections on OT stories)

we're still reading through the book of Kings in the morning chapels. we read through 2 Kings 4:8-37 quite awhile ago, but parts of the story have still stuck with me. and since it has to do with the impossibility of a barren woman becoming pregnant, wondering about Sara's laughter and the birth of Isaac has drawn my attention back to this story in Kings.

the story begins with Elisha receiving hospitality from a wealthy woman from Shunem (as a side note, neither her nor her husband is ever named in the story). Elisha wants to pay back her gracious hospitality, so her offers her better standing or help with the king. She says that she's quite happy, thanks. Elisha does not accept her answer although he doesn't seem to have much clue about what the woman might really want. and so he asks his servant for help - he gives the obvious answer: that the woman's husband is old and she has no son.

so Elijah calls the woman and promises her a son. up to this point in the story, Elisha has come across as being a bit clueless concerning women and motherhood, so i'm not exactly sure how he might have told her - or what reaction he might have been expecting. but the woman's reaction was clear. her immediate response was negative -
"No, my lord!""Please, man of God, don't mislead your servant!" (TNIV - v 16).

after her words of disbelief and denial, the next thing we read is that she conceived and bore a son, just like Elisha had said. i'm not sure whether you would say that God didn't listen to her - it seems more like He did listen; He just listened to the words she wasn't able to say - and the hope that she wasn't able to have.

and the story continues. the child grew up. one day the boy contracts heat stroke and dies in his mother's lap. his mother laid him in the prophet's room and left in a rush to see the prophet, all the while claiming that everything was just fine. when she met Elisha's servant, she still claimed that things were fine. but when Elisha saw her, he saw that she was very upset. and her words to Elisha were: "did i even ask you for a son? didn't i tell you not to mislead me?!!"

Elisha tries to send his servant to heal the boy but the woman refused to leave Elisha. for me, it's as if she was saying, 'you promised me the impossible once and i would not believe then - but now that you've gotten me into all this, i expect you to do everything you can, even the impossible.

so Elisha went to the child. the servant could not heal the boy. but Elisha went in to the dead boy, prayed, laid down on the boy, the boy grew warm, Elisha walked around a bit, laid down on the boy again, and the boy sneezed 7 times and opened his eyes. Elisha called for the mother and gave her her son back. the woman bowed down to Elisha and accepted the gift of her son.

and it's a fascinating story. and when i hear it, i wonder at the woman's faith - how she had such a hard time believing Elisha's promise of a son - as if she'd given up hope for ever having a son and couldn't believe that this impossibility could really happen. and then i wonder at her faith in going to Elisha when her son died - and how she attached herself to him, as if to say that he had to finish what he started - that if she was promised the impossible before, she now expects the impossible to happen again.

and i wonder about how my own faith relates - about how i sometimes stop expecting or hoping for things, so as to protect myself from experiencing the pain of being disappointed (again). and i also wish i had more of that blatant 'in your face' kind of faith that the woman shows at the end of the story - the whole "this was Your idea, God. You got me into this mess, God, so I am expecting You to do something about it." not that i don't expect to have to do something myself, but i'd still like more of that crazy faith and expectation.

No comments: