1 Samuel 16:1, 11-13
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.
In the story of David’s anointing, one of the first things that stands out is outward appearance versus looking at the heart. However the beginning of the story focuses on Samuel’s grief and God’s call to hope.
When Samuel anointed Saul, he hoped and expected Saul to be used by God in the blessing of the people. The people of Israel had great hopes for Saul and the kingdom when he was anointed king. But all of these were destroyed when Saul rejected God and was rejected by God. Saul was no longer the leader in whom the people could place their hopes. He had a dark spirit hovering over him and now the spirit of God had departed from Saul.
Samuel was in grief. He felt broken by this broken dream. But God brought hope through David, a shepherd of Bethlehem who became the symbol of hope, light and joy. David became the promise of a good King and a future kingdom. Through his story David provided a glimpse at a future King, the King of all kings, a future shepherd, the Good shepherd, also from Bethlehem, who would bring hope of life beyond death.
A couple of years ago, I met a young girl expecting her first baby. Sadly, the baby was diagnosed with anencephaly, the absence of major portions of the fetus’ brain, skull and scalp. The mother was informed that her baby could die in her womb, during labor or die shortly after birth. This was so hard for her to hear–I can’t imagine knowing the baby in one’s womb will not survive.
But this young woman’s strength and hope beyond her circumstance taught me so much about being a mother. Her words of hope have stayed with me since: “as long as she is in my womb, she is alive and I will give her life for as long as I can, because every living being lives with purpose and her purpose was to make me ‘Mom.’” She carried the baby through almost the entire forty weeks of pregnancy and then went into labor. Her baby was born and died shortly after birth.
Though this young woman didn’t get to change a diaper or dress her baby or regret her discipline choices, she became a mother. She sacrificed for her daughter beyond any instant gratification in return. Yes, she cried and yes, it hurt. But the kind of light that glowed in her destroyed any kind of darkness that surrounded her. As in the story of David’s anointing, God did not change the situation, but provided hope beyond the circumstance.
David, the young shepherd anointed king, wrote the song recorded in Psalm 23 which we can imagine the people of Israel singing in exile, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” In the past they had experienced hope beyond their deepest darkness. At times, the relationship between the people of Israel and God resembled a strong-willed child fighting to pull out of her mother’s strong hold. Over and over, God demonstrated the patience of a mother who repeats the same thing 20 times before her child listens, who forgives every time, but also fulfills the consequences that come after disobedience. Over and over, God also showed the love of a mother who hugs and holds her child on that dark night when she has the scariest nightmare.
The fourth week of Lent begins with Laetare Sunday, the Sunday of Joy. Lent is a season of penance and prayer in reflection of God’s death, but the fourth Sunday is a time of rejoicing in the hope found beyond the cross and death. Laetare Sunday, is also known as the Mothering Sunday, when many people many attend their mother’s church or go home and visit their mothers. Isaiah 66:10-13 says:
“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. For you will
nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink
deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance. For this is what
the Lord says: I will extend peace to her like a river and the wealth
of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on
her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
What a symbol of comfort, joy and light!
As ministering mothers, we mother not only our children, but all whom God brings to our care as mothers. At times, we have become the strong arms holding someone through the darkness, the voice of God bringing affirmation and the comforting presence when words can’t bring the comfort needed. God is reflected in the mother fighting alongside her cancer-stricken child, the single mother fulfilling two roles for her children or the pastor who loves and accepts a child of God who shares those things he wishes no one would ever know.
Mothers, you carry the image of God. You are not called into ministry despite being a mother–God made you a mother to be the minister you are right now. Rejoice because there is hope beyond darkness and you, my sister, are a symbol of that hope.
Griselda Escobar serves as chaplain at Christus Spohn South Hospital, Corpus Christi, Texas. She has a Bachelors of Biblical and Theological Studies from the Baptist University of the Americas, a Masters of Divinity from Logsdon Seminary and did Clinical Pastoral Education at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital. Griselda is a recipient of the Addie Davis Award from Baptist Women in Ministry for leadership in Pastoral Care. She is married and has a seven-year old son.