Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Elijah's Widow and The Woman at the Jacob's Well
The first miracle: The Prophet Elijah and the Widow of Sarepta by Bernardo Strozzi KUNSTHISTORISCHES MUSEUM, VIENNA
Many Trials, Small Blessings
The story of the Widow who cared for Elijah always fascinated me. Despite having an obvious miracle of being sustained through the famine, it wasn't until her son was healed that she knew Elijah was a man of God. Perhaps this was because the miracle of the meal not running out wasn't all that great. She still had to make the plain cakes every day and I'm sure she got sick of the same thing. She obviously didn't have that much left over because we don't know that she could share it with others who were starving or even if she got that much. But saving her son was an awesome gift that may have opened her eyes to the earlier miracle too. (From 1 Kgs. 17: 8-21)
The Widow with Elijah
Sometimes it feels like the Lord asks so much of me, and then when I think He can’t ask another thing, He asks more. The famine had stolen my husband. I watched our store of food dwindle day by day until there was almost nothing left. Finally, one day I went outside to gather wood for my last cooking fire. I knew there was only enough for one small cake, and then my small son and I would lay down next to each other and die, as I had seen so many of my friends and family already do before me.
While I was out on this daunting task, a man approached me and said he was a man of God. He asked for food, and I told him of my plight. He didn’t pity me but asked again for food. He said that if I fed him first, there would be meal and oil left for me and my son. I almost denied him but finally shrugged and thought ‘what’s the difference.’
I scraped the last of the meal from the sides of the barrel. It was empty except for a little residue around the edges of the bottom. I took it and poured on the oil. It was barely enough to moisten the dry granules, and I kneaded them together into a small uneven lump of dough. As it cooked, I thought of the man’s promise that the barrel would never be empty and the cruse would never run dry, thinking that they already had.
He ate, and I turned to open the lid of the meal barrel. It still looked empty, but it occurred to me that there might be some flour stuck in the seams of the wood. I tapped the side and wouldn’t you know that a thin dusting settled on the bottom. With much difficulty I gathered it up and was surprised it was enough for two more small cakes. I patted the base of the turned over cruse and a few small drips seeped down the sides of the ceramic vessel. We ate our meager meal and my son slept with me while the supposed prophet took my child’s bed.
For weeks it continued. Every morning I would look in the barrel and though it seemed empty, with much work, I would get just enough to survive. Nothing more. I suppose it was a miracle of sorts. But why hadn’t God sent a goat or sheep or even touched a tree to make it covered with figs. No, we lived off of small bland cakes that I had to work to prepare, given one at a time.
I tried to be grateful but it was hard, watching my neighbors starving around me. It made me wonder, if there was a God, how could he allow such suffering?
Then one night I woke to find my son burning with fever. The next day his eyes were glassy and a low cough hovered deep in his chest. I recognized the shadow of death upon him as it had been upon my husband just the month before and fear gripped me. That night his forced breathing slowed until with the rise of dawn it ended altogether.
The man must have heard my wailing because I turned and saw the prophet at the door. I stood before him and asked why he had brought only sorrow to my life. He took my boy up to his room and called me a few minutes later. There sat my boy. Alive and healed. I knelt before him and gratitude filled my heart. For the first time I looked up and realized he truly was a man of God and that my Father in Heaven cared about us, even through this trial.
A Sinful Past
Henryk Siemiradzki. "Christ and the Samaritan Woman." 1890. The Lvov Picture Gallery, Lvov, Ukraine. Obtained from www.abcgallery.com.
As women, I think many of us struggle with forgiving our pasts. We hope that repentance works but somehow believe we are still unloveable or broken because we have done things we are not proud of years ago. I love this story because Christ declares his divinity not to the covenant mother who is at the well surrounded by friends, but to a woman so embarrassed to associate with her peers that she sneaks out to the well in the middle of the day. What a message to those who feel they aren't good enough because of previous bad choices. (From John 4:3-42)
Woman at Jacob's Well-
We all have our secrets. No one needs to know my past, and no one in Sychar did. I had recently moved there with a good man, the first good man I’ve ever been with. I would have married him but my last husband left town without divorcing me. He may be dead, but it seemed a greater sin to be married to two men officially than to simply live with one until I found out for sure.
Still, to keep this secret has cost me dearly. From the first day here I’ve been careful not to let the women too close. When my neighbor welcomed me with a loaf of bread, I returned it, explaining that we could not accept such kindness. The scowl on her face gave me assurance that she would stay away. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t love to have this woman as a friend, but women ask too many questions. If I had let her near, one day I would slip and once they knew the terrible things I’d done and the horrible men I’ve been with, they could never look at me the same way again. No, it was better for everyone if I simply pushed the women away.
On the bright side, men don’t ask questions, especially of a married woman. So I made friends with the men that hovered around the livery where my supposed husband worked. We laughed together and often discussed politics and religion which were so interconnected that they were almost the same conversation.
Business was doing well, and I looked forward to the day when I could hire a servant to fetch water for us. Until that day, I was careful not to approach the well at the common times. During the first hours of the morning the women of the village gathered in droves as much for water as for gossip and conversation. As soon as the sun had risen, they’d hurry to socialize, some for hours. It wasn’t until mid-day that they had gone. That is when I’d leave with my vessel, before they all started to return in the evening to ask more probing questions or glare in disapproval.
As I approached Jacob’s well this one day, a Jewish man sat on its edge and asked me for water. I was shocked he would even talk to me. Jews hated the Samaritans because we claim the real priesthood and the real temple site. I asked him why he spoke to me and he answered that if I had asked of him, he would give me living water. At that point I simply laughed at him. He had nothing to fetch with. Then he explained about the power of the water he spoke of, and I realized it was symbolic. Perhaps this water could heal my past and wash it away. I felt something I hadn’t before and knew that this water was something I needed. I asked, “Give me of this water that I may thirst not.”
His answer made me wilt. “Call thy husband and come hither.”
I bit my lip, unsure of how to answer. “I don’t have a husband.” I finally said.
Instead of the words bringing derision, a look of joy sprang to his face and he commended me for my honesty and spoke of my past in detail, something no one else knew. But his words didn’t make me feel dirty like in the past. I knew he loved me and that he must be a prophet. Excited at this discovery I asked him the doctrinal question that had been plaguing me about the original temple site. He asked how I hoped to receive an answer and I told him eventually the Savior would come and tell us.
He replied, "I am he."
Those words I knew! It was the name of Moses' god whom we worshipped- The Great I Am. He was the Messiah. This was the one for whom we waited.
I dropped my vessel and ran to town, shouting “He is here. The Messiah has come.” Many of the women shunned my words, but the men I had spoken with and my own sweet companion believed me. We ran back to the well, where he sat waiting for us and taught us marvelous things. Then we invited him to Samaria and he stayed for two full days. Many believed and during that time he truly filled me with the living water as he had promised. I’ve never thirsted more.