Shunammite – the word is Shunammite.
I can barely pronounce her name, let alone spell it, but today I was reading about the (un-named) Shunammite lady in the Bible.
Her name isn’t mentioned. All we’re told is that she was married to a very wealthy man and that she was kind and generous. She liked to entertain and in fact, loved having the prophet Elisha to stay so much, she and the hubby built an extra room onto their house for him to stay in.
Elisha was really moved by her generosity and so one day he asked her a simple question.
“You’ve done so much for me…is there anything I can do for you?”
Shuna (for that is what I’ll call her) said no, that she was happy, she had a good home and a nice life – she had all she needed.
But Elisha knew differently; he knew that she wanted a baby but wasn’t able to have one. And so Elisha looked at her, and I imagine, with more than a touch of a grin, said to her, “This time next year, you will be holding your very own child”.
His words must have touched a deeply wounded part of her soul, an area she had long ago locked up, a place where hope had died. ‘Please don’t mess with me…’ she half whispered, “I couldn’t bear for my hopes to be raised again….I just couldn’t bear it….please”.
What Elisha said next isn’t recorded, but what IS recorded, is the birth of Shuna’s son one year later.
A happy ending or so it would seem…but the story doesn’t end there.
Her son grew older and one day, was out in the fields with his father, when he suddenly started clutching his head and screaming in agony, “My head….my head…”
The workers carried him home to Shuna but his pain only increased. She wrapped herself around him for hours. Trying to soothe this merciless pain, she rocked him, begging God for mercy, but 2 Kings 4 records that ‘at about noon, he died’.
In her torment, Shuna knew she had to get to Elisha, the holy man, who had prophesied this child’s life into being.
Her son was dead but surely this couldn’t be the end??? Why would God give her such a beautiful thing, only to snatch it away with such savage brutality???
She found Elisha and as she ran toward him, grief-stricken, broken, desperate, she wasn’t making much sense but she was weeping, gasping, “I begged you….I begged you not to raise my hopes….but you did…I had a child…and now my beautiful, beautiful baby is dead…”
The despair was leaking out of her, hopelessness, knowing in her heart that she would never recover from this. Ever.
Elisha simply had no idea…he actually said, ‘God has kept this from me’, but he raced back with Shuna, and there, he walked into the room where the boy’s body was laid out.
I wonder how he prayed? Did he pray a prayer familiar to lots of us;
Lord…why? Why have you allowed this to happen?
Or Father…where ARE you?
Or was it a prayer of certain boldness, knowing that God would come through?
In a way, I’m glad I don’t know….I like to think that even great heroes of the faith sometimes have questions and doubts too.
But however he prayed, warmth and life began to flow through the son’s veins. The Bible says the boy sneezed seven times…not sure why that was relevant, but the point is, he was ALIVE. Elisha called Shuna in and I can only guess at her reaction…hugging, kissing, dancing, never wanting to let him go again.
I like Shuna. I like that she was thankful for what life had given her, despite a secret longing.
I like her courage and generosity….and I also like her doubts and questions. Even on the most horrific day of her life, she ran to the only place she knew – toward God’s prophet – and she hurled all her grief, sadness and doubts at him. And she got her answer.
And if this story tells me anything, it’s this; the story isn’t over, till God says it’s over.