Once there was a widow with two sons who was badly in debt. She was about to split the family up, and her sons were being robbed of their freedom. She told her problems to a very devout man, and he prayed for her. And this desperate situation was resolved for the good of all.
If you aren't familiar with it, this is a story from the Bible (see II Kings 4:1-7). The holy man was the prophet Elisha. When he heard the widow's problem, he asked, "So, what have you got in the house?" It turned out that all she had was a pot of oil. (I like to think it was a nice olive oil.)
Elisha told her to go to all the neighbors and borrow empty containers. Then he told her to go into the house with her sons, close the door, and pour out the oil. She started pouring. And somehow she was able to keep pouring. Pretty soon she had filled every container. She was able to sell all the oil, pay off her cards, and live on the rest of the profits.
This story actually relates to how I met my husband. You see, I'd given up. Not on men, but on finding one for a life companion. I'd looked, but it had never worked out.
One day I thought of that woman in that Bible story. I was willing to bet she had more than just a barren room and one pot of oil. She might have had a bed and a knickknack or two. But she turned to what she had of value - the oil.
The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote a book with a glossary of biblical words. It explains that oil, as far as Scripture is concerned, signifies "consecration; charity; gentleness; prayer; heavenly inspiration" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 592). Those spiritual qualities from God had all become very important to me over the years. They were what I had of value in my "house" - my life. I had tried to express those qualities in abundance.
At a certain point, I stopped looking for what I needed outside of myself, and started placing value on anything that seemed to represent an appreciation of spiritual qualities.
Several years before this, I'd met a man at a seminar on spiritual issues. I knew he wanted to be closer to spiritual things and to have a deeper understanding of his relationship with God. While we'd become friends, and would see each other now and then, our visits usually ended with both of us fighting about silly, picky things.
As I turned to God, my prayer led me to seek not what I could find and bring into my house, but what I already had in the house, so to speak. Well, I had this friend. He'd always cheered on my efforts to be more spiritually-minded and more consecrated to God. He valued my focus on a life dedicated to spiritual values.
One day I just picked up the phone and told him I wanted to be a person with whom he could share a mutual search to gain spiritual knowledge.
We began to study the Bible. We stopped being so critical of each other and became more supportive. We could be fearless around each other. We gave each other permission to be joyous, spontaneous, and to take risks. If I wanted to sing but sang off key, he wouldn't laugh at me. If he wanted to confide things in me, I'd be respectful and thoughtful.
Within six months we were engaged. And within a year we were married.
What about all those fights we used to have? The nicest part of this story is that the exterior qualities we both had that were not so very lovable or lovely just fell away. Like clothing we chose not to cling to, in favor of garments that were more representative of our true selves.
I still have times when I have a need and turn to that question, "what have you got in the house?" It has led me to creative solutions to situations where the first thought is "nothing but this jar of oil." That's not "just a jar," but a whole new way to look at what has been there all along!
A father of the fatherless, and a
judge of the widows, is God in
his holy habitation. God setteth
the solitary in families: he
bringeth out those which are
bound with chains: but the
rebellious dwell in a dry land.
Psalms 68:5, 6
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society