Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25

Friday, April 8, 2011

A question of attitudes - lessons from a Lebanese widow

A young Lebanese widow and her son was preparing for her last meal when she came across the strange man. The land had been gripped by a severe drought and famine. With no way to fend for herself and her son, the widow had rationed whatever food she had until all she had left was just a handful of flour and some oil. Hardly enough for even a small loaf of bread. Her starving body reduced to barely skin and bones, she scavenged for some sticks to fuel a fire so that she could bake the flour for a last meal before she and her son will just lie down and await the inevitability of a slow death by starvation.

Then she came across the crazy man. A strange old Israelite with an even stranger story. He had apparently been hiding out in the ravines by a brook. Fed by ravens, he had held out until the brook itself ran dry. Then he had come looking for her because his God had sent him to her.

To her? She could hardly believe his story. Even less so his demands of her. He wanted her to get him water to drink ... and a piece of bread. Did he not know about the drought and famine? Was he so unaware of the direness of her situation, that she was preparing for her very last meal, and that even that wasn't enough for a decent meal for her and her son?

She hardly believed his story. And although she believed his God exists, as a non-Israelite she didn't quite believe that He, an Israelite God, was her God.

But the crazy man told her not to worry, and that his God had sent him. He told her go ahead and make him a loaf of bread. And if she did so, her flour would not run out, neither her oil.

Trapped between disbelief and desperation, she took that leap of faith and welcomed him into her home. Despite the fact that she had barely enough to stave off hunger pangs for just a few hours before she would completely exhaust her food stores, she welcomed him to share that last morsel of food with her.

A step of faith. An act of grace. She could not have known that she was to be as much his salvation as he was to be hers. And through this, she has become immortalized in biblical history.

I got to thinking how often we are constrained by what we perceive as what we are not, or what we have not. We can't achieve this, or that, because we are not rich and powerful or highly educated. Yet our God is strong in our very weakness. The above account of the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16) exemplifies the power of obedience and faith even when we believe we are struggling through drought and famine.

Because our God is strong and faithful.

May we remain faithful in our work, and our flour and oil never run out.

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