October 16, 2008
Saddle Up Yer DonkeyHow long does it take a donkey to carry a woman twenty miles? I have no idea, but that's what the donkey in today's Donkey Tale does. (Feel free to let us know if you figure out the answer.)
In one of last week's Donkey Tales we looked at Isaac (a.k.a. Miracle Child) and why Abraham (a.k.a. Loving Father of Miracle Child) almost had to kill him. The possibility of Abraham's really having to sacrifice the son he loved so deeply, as well as his faith in God's sovereignty before knowing how things would end, were both hard for me to imagine.
In the days of Elisha, in a place called Shunem, another Miracle Child actually does die. This son is not even named in Scripture, but his birth occurs in similar circumstances to Isaac's. The child's mother and father, apparently wealthy, provide Elisha with a place to stay whenever he needs it. In return for their kindness, he promises the childless woman and her old husband a child within the year. Like Sarah, this woman is skeptical--but also like Sarah, she holds a son in her arms a year later.
We don't know how much time passes (2 Kings 4:18 simply says "the child grew"), but one day the boy complains to his father that his head hurts. By noon, verse 20 tells us, he's dead.
Once again, Scripture doesn't give us much insight into the woman's thoughts or emotional reaction. But it seems safe to say she loved her son every bit as much as Abraham loved Isaac, and I would imagine that his death--a death that occurred in her arms--caused the deepest pain she'd experienced so far in her life.
Which is why what she does next is so challenging to me. After laying her son on Elisha's bed, she immediately goes outside and asks her husband to send a servant and a donkey to her so that she can go see Elisha, the "man of God." He seems confused but obliges her request. So "she saddled the donkey and said to her servant, 'Lead on; don't slow down for me unless I tell you'" (v. 24).
They find Elisha about fifteen or twenty miles away, at Mount Carmel. She falls at his feet when she reaches him, and, through Elisha's statement to his servant in verse 27, we get our first glimpse of her emotional state: "bitter distress." Upon seeing her grief, Elisha sends his servant ahead of them--telling him to tuck his cloak in his belt and run--to try to revive the boy, but the servant's efforts are unsuccessful. So when Elisha reaches the house, "there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD." Elisha then climbs onto the couch and lies on top of the boy. The boy's body starts to get warm. So, after walking around the room, Elisha lies on top of him again. And then, as if waking from a nap, the boy sneezes and opens his eyes: miraculous birth number two.
Here's what gets me: In the deepest grief she's ever known, the Shunammite woman--again, an apparently wealthy woman who most likely has any material item she needs right at her fingertips--saddles her donkey and gets to the man of God as fast as she can. He performed a miracle for her once; he must be able to do it again.
Her faith, like Abraham's, is much stronger than mine. In times of pain and grief, immediately turning to God is not always my first response. In those moments, I don't usually recall all that he's done for me--which includes physically healing me when I was in high school and woke up too feverish and nauseous to play in a regional tennis match. And, when I do recall his gifts, his miracles, in my life, I'm too timid to ask him boldly for another gift or miracle, assuming I've already received my allotted amount from him.
But the fact is, he wants me to come to him as quickly and boldly as the Shunammite woman went to Elisha. And the truth is, he's as eager to help as Elisha was--and his power that caused this boy's birth and resurrection is as strong and active today as it was then.
So, Strangely Dim friends, in your grief, in your pain, in your confusion--get on your donkey and go to him. Which is to say, cry out to him. He already beside you, eagerly waiting for you to call on him, ready to respond in wisdom and power to bring you back to life.