Do you have a bucket list of things that you would like to do? It may be reading a certain book, visiting an exotic location, starting a new business, or learning a language.
What about when you get to heaven? Do you have a bucket list of things that you would like to do there? I hope there is a chorus of Brethren saying, “I want to see Jesus!”
Your heaven bucket list could include seeing a child you carried but never met, catching up with a friend you lost to cancer, hugging grandparents, a spouse, a mother or father. Your list could continue.
There is a certain woman that I would like to talk to. Maybe we could walk streets of gold together, sit by a river, or take a break from the heavenly chorus to talk. I want to know this woman. She inspires me, though I have met her only through the pages of scripture. Her story is told in 2 Kings 4:8-37, and the lessons of her story should be inscribed in our hearts.
She lived in a place called Shunem, a city of Issachar. We don’t even know her name, just that she is a Shunammite woman. She lived with her husband, who was old. The scripture refers to her as a great woman. The Bible says that she was rich and influential, but all that influence and wealth could not give her what I suspect she had desperately wanted: a child. How long had they been married? We don’t know. However, we do know that their arms were empty.
Read the story. Put yourself into their shoes. Then learn some lessons.
Lesson #1 – See the need and take action.
Elisha was a man on the move, and this woman from Shunem noticed how often the holy man of God was passing by their house. She gave voice to an idea. Build a room for Elisha, and in the room place a bed, a table, a stool, and a candlestick. Anytime that Elisha needed a place to stay, there would be one.
Her husband embraced her idea, because that’s exactly what they did. They made a place for Elisha.
How often do we see a need and fail to do something constructive about it? The need may be in our homes, in our communities, in our churches, or maybe even in our own lives. We may think it is too time-consuming, too costly, or too difficult, so we just sit on the sidelines and don’t put forth the effort that is needed.
This couple jumped in with both feet—and a couple of hammers besides—and did what it took to supply a need. God likes that kind of initiative. Don’t be lazy. Go order some lumber.
Lesson #2 – Dreams can live again.
Elisha was so blessed by this woman’s hospitality that he wanted to do something for her. Through his servant Gehazi, Elisha asked his hostess what he could do in return.
She was not in this for gain and didn’t ask anything in return. Elisha still wasn’t satisfied. After prying some more, he found out that this couple didn’t have any children, and didn’t have the possibility of having any because the husband was too old.
Through his servant, Elisha summoned her to his room. She stood in the doorway and heard Elisha say, “At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son.” A son? She didn’t believe it. She didn’t want the man of God to lie to her. But the promise had been made, and a seed of hope had been planted.
Imagine hearing the conversation between the woman and her husband. Maybe she took him to the same doorway and asked Elisha to repeat the promise.
How long had it been since this woman had dared to hope? How long had it been since she had returned the crib, boxed up the baby booties, or shut the door to the nursery?
Do you stand in a doorway of your own? What is it that you desire? Does it seem hopeless? Never to be? Listen to the promise, believe in the goodness of God, and let hope arise.
Lesson #3 – Run to your answer.
“The woman conceived and bore a son at that season, in due time, as Elisha had declared to her” (2 Kings 4:17).
The joy of verse 17 is quickly dashed by the tragedy of verse 20, when this promised son dies. Imagine the anguish of that moment, the feeling of helplessness followed by the finality of death.
Are you able to put yourself into the shoes of this mother? You may have held your own child, watching him fade away. And, with his last breath, part of your heart died, too. Maybe it was the unbelievable blessing of a wonderful marriage, followed by a war of words that left your heart wounded and torn. Maybe it was a career that fit your talents and abilities. You loved it. You gave it your all—only to be handed a pink slip with no explanation why.
Where do you run when hope has slipped away? Where do you turn in the darkest storms? Where do you escape when you need a refuge?
This mother walked through the doorway of promise. She took her dead son and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door as she left. She walked through that same doorway where she had received the news that she would bear a son. Imagine the pain she must have felt leaving her son behind—even though he was dead—and shutting the door, leaving part of her heart in that room.
The Bible doesn’t tell us that she informed her husband about the death of their child, but she did ask him for a servant and for a donkey so that she could go to the man of God. Her husband didn’t understand why his wife would make this trip on such a day, but the Shunammite woman merely responded, “It will be all right.”
She was a mother on a mission. She instructed the driver not to restrain the donkeys unless she told him to. I can picture a quick departure, dust flying, hooves pounding, the passengers jostling, neighbors wondering.
The Shunammite’s faith is on display as she charges down that road. If she could get to Elisha, things would be all right. What a challenge to us.
Perhaps you have a dead dream or a dormant desire. Tragedy has stuck, trials abound, tears flow from tired eyes. Hope is hard to come by. Prayers don’t seem to penetrate the ceiling. Fear is on every side.
I have a suggestion: Saddle up your donkey and drive. Go to the one who is your answer. Let your faith confront your fears. Hang on to hope and go to God—who already sees you coming.
Melody Keller lives in Wales, Maine, and is a member of the Lewiston (Maine) Church of the Brethren.