By Amanda Cox
This always happens. Winter seemed to last forever and I felt like I got a lot done. Then Easter came and it feels like I’m just barely keeping life together.
I’ll admit that I’ve fallen behind in my daily Bible reading,but I’ve got a plan to catch up this next week while I’m on a vacation/work trip. I don’t feel guilty about being behind, but I do feel a little guilt that in all my busyness, the first thing I seem to let drop is my daily Bible reading (but I’m working on it).
A particular passage I was catching up on (2 King 4:1-7) jumped out at me this week and I thought I’d share my meandering thoughts about it.
This is the passage where a woman is about to have her children taken into slavery because she can’t pay her creditors. Her husband has died and it’s not a good scene. She asks Elisha, the prophet, for help. In response, he asks her what she has at home. She explains that she has nothing, only a small amount of oil. So he tells her to gather a bunch of jars from her neighbors – he makes a point to emphasize that she’ll need a lot of jars.
Then he tells her to go into her house, close the door, and then pour out the little bit of oil into the empty jars. The oil keeps flowing and flowing out of this nothingness. Every single jar is filled with oil! Elisha tells her to sell the oil to pay off her debts and use the leftovers to live off of.
I love the Old Testament because God shows up in the most radical and tangible ways. This woman has a very specific problem and Elisha gives the woman an exact answer to her dilemma. I relate so much to this woman in that when Elisha asks her what she has at home, she says “Nothing…but”. My guess is, she has done everything in her power to sell whatever she had that might have been of value to pay down this debt. All that remained was this little jar of oil, probably like having just enough milk left for a cup of coffee but not enough for a bowl of cereal.
When things get out of my control, I tend to magnify what’s going wrong. I fixate on what’s lacking because I can’t make anything out of what’s left. I forget that God CAN when I can’t. That’s kind of His thing. The woman is told to gather a lot of jars as the first step toward this blessing – I imagine her going house to house asking to borrow jars, not knowing why she’s doing this, only that the prophet told her. Were her neighbors generous lenders of the jars? Were the jars like the good Tupperware that they etched their family name into and made her leave a deposit to take? I wonder if she had to tell her story to some slightly suspicious neighbors who might have thought she was nuts.
I miss this part of the process of blessing too often. I’m terrible at asking for help. After I had my baby, I didn’t know how ask for help to do basic, everyday things. In my mind, they were personal tasks that a functioning adult should be able to do. I had a hard time accepting that I was not a very functioning adult those first few weeks (wait, maybe even now??). When people came over to help, I would literally try to clean up as much as possible so they didn’t think I was a mess. I was too embarrassed to let people walk in and see my mess and my need. My friends could have done my laundry, swept the floor or washed the dishes. But I didn’t let myself ask for that.
Sometimes the impairment isn’t physical, but emotional. I’m trying to get better at sharing what I’m actually going through with my small group and my friends. Our church is full of people who will pray, call, text – whatever is needed. We’ve got a lot of professional coffee conversationalists. We are not a go-it-alone community.
Finally, the woman goes into her house and receives her blessing. I love that it says in verse 6, “When the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another jar.’ And he said to her, ‘There is not one jar left.’” Both times I read this my first thought was “Dang, why didn’t she get more jars?” Like, what if her house was just floor to ceiling in jars and she would have even MORE and been even richer? She didn’t get more because she wasn’t prepared for the enormity of what the blessing COULD have been. My study Bible even says that her blessing was limited by her faith in gathering the jars. There’s so much truth in that. I think I often set limits on the kind or size of the things that I allow God to do for me. But then, as I was reading, the Holy Spirit showed me that she was not in lack – the blessing was still huge. She paid her debt, got to keep her kids, and had even more leftover.
I know I live an incredibly blessed life. I also know that a lot of my time spent with God is just me asking for more. Bring me another jar, God! I often have a poverty mindset while surrounded by jars of oil. In light of this, I’ve started walking myself through this set of questions when I start to feel dissatisfied: Have I ever not had access to food? Have I ever not had clothes to wear? Have I ever not had a place to sleep? The answer to all of those questions has always been no. Sure, there have been some times when the answer was almost a yes, but God always provided and I believe he always will. I don’t have to look to the world’s standard of success or prosperity. I can be content with what I’ve already been provided.
In busy times and in the days that are long and painful, I want to remember to still call to God, but be willing to ask for help. There will be times that I need to gather jars, but I also want to be on high alert for times when I can be a jar-giver. From the overflow of my blessing , I want to continue to be a blessing to others.