Colorado Springs, 1999. My first real job as a writer.
I was 17, and I had been chosen by the editors of a teen magazine to write a column every other month for a year. “Lisa’s Line,” they called it. They had flown me to Colorado by myself for a weekend photo shoot, to get the next January’s cover image and a few more pictures for accompanying my columns. The editor in charge of choosing me that year, Andrea, had flown in for the weekend as well. She and I were staying in the same hotel, and I was positively awed by her.
Andrea asked if I would meet her for breakfast at the hotel restaurant on the day of the shoot. So I found her at a table that morning, sat across from her, and tried to mirror her beautiful posture without being obvious about it. (Was it the way she held her shoulders? Were they forward or back? Or up?) I tried to say intelligent things and to not hold my fork awkwardly. I was embarrassed that my hair was still a little damp.
She told me why they had picked me: they liked my writing and it seemed I had solid faith. Since the magazine had a distinctly Christian focus, they were looking for a teenager who could be a distinctly Christian role model for their readership. That was ironic, considering what happened not moments later.
The topic moved to other things, I think. I can’t remember what we were talking about specifically when Andrea suddenly referenced a not-too-commonly-known Bible story. “…the Shunammite woman,” she said. “You know the story of the Shunammite woman, don’t you?” Her tone implied that the story should be on par with Noah’s ark or Joseph’s colorful coat, in terms of familiarity. I had zero clue what she was talking about.
“Mmmmhmm!” I lied, in as believable a voice I could manage. With my shoulders poised precisely the way I guessed they were supposed to be.
Today, more than a decade later. Many writing assignments long completed, much of the novelty worn off.
I pick up my Bible to review the Scripture selections I can choose from in drafting this post. 1 Timothy resonates as usual, because I know I am one of those types who prides myself in toeing the line, unless I have near-constant reminders to view things more realistically:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:14)
Still, I tell myself I should at least read the other three chapters before giving them a blanket veto. Which brings me to: a prophecy about bounding rams and oddly-horned goats from Daniel 8, a psalm of praise for God’s rescue, and 2 Kings 4, which is Shunammite redux.
Not only is 2 Kings 4 the place where the Shunammite woman actually appears (in the second half of the passage) but the first half of the chapter is, for me today, similarly shaming. I read it and am instantly confused. Didn’t Megan’s post last week talk about this widow and her never-empty jar? Was she mistaken in her dates, or am I? Please tell me I didn’t screw something up again.
My calendar seems right, so I skip on over to 1 Kings 17, the passage Megan referenced, to see what’s going on. And there are Elijah, a widow, a jar that doesn’t run out, and a jug that doesn’t either. By contrast, my passage one book later has Elisha, a different widow, and this time a jar but no jug. Directly after that comes the Shunammite woman.
The Shunammite (who knew!?) is apparently a rich supporter of Elisha’s ministry. In half a passage, she experiences two miracles. I feel my cheeks flush, reading this, and the air catches in my throat. In the decade and a half that has passed since Colorado Springs, I have never taken the time to actually become familiar with this story.
Not much has changed in 15 years or so. I still don’t like admitting when I don’t know the Bible well. I still give myself guilt trips for demanding less discipline than I should. I still like for people to have the impression that I’m better than I am.
And I am still astounded by the power of God’s Word, which is immeasurably stronger than these towers of sin that I build up and worship: pride, success, a good name. In his Word lies the good news that can topple all else with the brush of a feather.
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful…
For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living…
What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?…
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving… (Psalm 116:5, 8, 9, 12, 17)
Not Bible knowledge enough to impress, not added quiet times to allay the guilt, not a flawless reputation. No, it is to begin with thanksgiving:
The grace of our Lord overflowed for me. (1 Timothy 1:14)