Imagine for a moment that a child is waiting impatiently for a parent to come home. She wants to tell about some exciting, new experience she had that day. The time comes; the parent arrives, but he or she brings with them their own experiences of a tough day. “Not now, honey, I’m busy, go watch television. We’ll talk later.” But later never comes. Communication never happens. We give her designer clothes and computer games, but we never gave what she wanted the most, which is our time. Years pass. Now, at fifteen we suspect her on using drugs. “Honey, we need to sit down and talk, says the parent.” But it’s too late.
Lots of things in life cause us stress. But there are few that break the heart like the loss of a child. But there are many ways to lose children. By tragic death. By ignoring them. By breaking a relationship. And by failing to develop in them the strength and knowledge to resist evil.
Turning to this morning’s Bible lesson, Elisha did not know what had happened, but he guessed something was not right when this mother from Shunem came looking for him.
Elisha was an itinerant prophet, who spent much of his time wandering the land and proclaiming the word and wishes of God. He was a frequent visitor to Shunem.
It was a central hub from which he conducted his ministry. During these regular visits he had become friends with a certain couple which would invite him to dinner from time to time. The woman of this household grew so fond of him that she asked husband to build a small furnished room for him up on the roof in a gesture of extreme hospitality.
Parenthetically speaking, if my wife pushed me to build an extra room for an itinerant preacher so he could pop in unannounced, I think I’d be a little suspicious. But this husband went the “second mile” for a stranger and the apartment was built.
Elisha was so moved by this that he called the woman into his new room on the roof and tells her what every barren woman longs to hear: You will hold a son in your arms. We can hear the pain in her voice when she pleads: Don’t mislead your servant, O man of God! Don’t fool with me!
One year later a boy is born and everyone lives happily ever after. Right? Wrong.
Some more years later when this young boy is out in the fields with his father he suffers a heat stroke, is taken home to his mother, and dies held in her lap.
You can anticipate her words to Elisha when she sees him the next time:
I told you so! I told you not to mislead me!!
This is Mother’s Day. Mothers. Let me ask you. How is it with you? Whether your children are in the home now or they have graduated to their own lives, it matters little. An enormous task was and is placed upon you. Nations are not built by the people in power, but by the mother from the crib.
This woman in 2 Kings is wealthy and has a nurturing disposition. You can see it in the way she treated Elisha. She respected her husband and sought his advice and help on projects around the home. She was faithful to her husband despite their lack of children. She would have made a good mother, but she had no children.
What is makes a good mother?
A panel of experts was convened by Mister Rogers to complete some sentences about their moms. They were all kindergarteners. These qualities they recognized in their moms are the qualities needed in all moms. Listen to what they identified.
My mom is best at: “feeding the dog,” “making my bed,” “driving,” “cleaning,” “running,” “riding a two-wheeler,” “watering the garden.”
It makes me feel good inside when Mom says: “I love you,” “good job,” “dinnertime!” “You look handsome,” “I’ll buy you something.”
My mom is as pretty as a — “butterfly,” “ballerina,” “mouse,” “princess,” “my brothers,” “goose,” “gold ring,” “a clean horse.”
If I had enough money, I’d buy her: “flowers,” “a car,” “a necklace,” “a kitten,” “a diamond ring,” “a big pack of bubble gum.”
So Mother’s how is it with you? Remember. The hours are endless, the talents required are many, the patience needed endless, and the pay is substandard.
How is it with your husbands? Are they living up to their responsibilities?
Did you notice that the father did in Scripture, when the child became sick, sent him home from the fields with a servant.
Why did he tell a servant to do what can arguably have been considered his job? It looked as though the boy had fainted; the servant had to lift him up. The boy wasn’t simply complaining; the boy was seriously ill. The father kept working the harvest, while the servant carried the limp body of his son back to his mother.
Can’t we hear all those boys and girls crying out for their dads from ages past to the present, “Dad, my head! my head!” And what do so many fathers do?
They keep right on working.
Notice the devotion of this mother. Even though her child had died in her arms, she was not the sort of mother who had overly protected him. Certainly, children need to be protected, but they need to let them fend for themselves once they do grow up. This mother let her young son go out in the field with his dad. She let him be a big boy, to learn to farm. There was risk in that. But there would also be risk in coddling him.
Contrast the devotion of this mother with the devotion of this father. The child is near death and the dad doesn’t pick the boy up. A servant is told to do it. We don’t know the reason, but we do know that he didn’t follow afterward to check on the health of his son.
A former governor of Tennessee from 1911-15, Ben Hooper, told the story of his childhood. “My mother wasn’t married when I was born, so I had a pretty hard time. When I started to school, my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and lunchtime because the things they said to me cut me so deep. What was worse was going to town on Saturday afternoons and feeling like every eye was burning a hole through me, wondering just who my father was.
“When I was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in the church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me.
‘Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’ he asked. I felt this big weight coming down on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down. But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. ‘Wait a minute!’ he said.
‘I know who you are. I see the family resemblance now. You are a child of God.’
With that he slapped me across the rump and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’
Ben Hooper said, “Those were the most important words anybody had ever said to me, and I’ve never forgotten them.” He was able to find himself despite a father who had abandoned him. Thank God he had a mother who was devoted to him.
Listen now to how the story in 2Kings ends (verses 26b-37).
These two mothers were devoted to their two sons. But more than this, they were both devoted to God. Mothers! There are many things in this life that cause stress and the demands are great.
Children will live out the life they see reflected in their mother’s eyes;
they will live out the life they feel given in the touch of their mother’s hand;
they will live out the life they hear described in the words of their mother’s lips.
This is the power given to mothers by God.
This is the trust given to mothers by God.
This is God’s blessing to each one of us on this Mothers’ Day.