Channeling my best circus act, I twist and stretch my right arm over the car seat while trying to keep one on the steering wheel. One eye on the road, one eye trying to find the bloody pacifier. I feel the pink rubber, then blindly search for the screaming mouth, all while trying to avoid crossing the center line and having the semi-truck driver following my mini-van-of-fun call the police on the clearly intoxicated driver. While the pacifier contortion act is finishing up, a blue pen is stolen from the one who clearly can't live without the blue pen because it is desperately needed to finish coloring the beautiful picture inside the library book. At least her gum isn't stuck to one of the pages again. I switch from circus performance to mediator, and apparently the switch is an ineffective one as the screaming escalates and I am waiting for the windshield to break at the new decibel. I give up trying to mediate, and reach for the glove box. McDonald's napkins tumble out as I grasp another pen. I toss it to the very back of the van, hoping some little hand will grasp it.
As the volume decreases, I hear the song. It's a kid's CD. Of course, it's a kid's CD. It's just more noise at first, and then without thinking I find myself singing along to the familiar words:
Give me oil in my lamp, keep it burning, burning burning. Give me oil in my lamp, I pray. Give me oil in my lamp, keep it burning, burning, burning. Keep it burning till the break of day.
We eventually made it home that day. And I managed to get lunch fed to all three, and when I didn't know if I would make it to naptime or through the next tantrum I felt a prayer rising to my lips: Give me oil in my lamp, Lord.
And isn't that the prayer of adulthood?
When our job is on the line,
when our kids are sick in the hospital,
when our marriage seems on sandy ground,
when the baby won't sleep,
when our friends need us to walk with them through hard stuff,
when the hard stuff shows up in our own life,
when you have three kids, ages 4 and under, that you're responsible for,
when someone challenges your faith,
when a parent dies,
when you're not sure where the money will come from,
when you're just so tired,
Lord, keep it burning till the break of day.
It makes me think of the story of Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17.
7 Some time later the brook dried up. It hadn’t rained in the land for quite a while. 8 A message came to Elijah from the Lord. He said, 9 “Go right away to Zarephath in the region of Sidon. Stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So Elijah went to Zarephath. He came to the town gate. A widow was there gathering sticks. He called out to her. He asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar? I need a drink.” 11 She went to get the water. Then he called out to her, “Please bring me a piece of bread too.”
12 “I don’t have any bread,” she replied. “And that’s just as sure as the Lord your God is alive. All I have is a small amount of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I’m gathering a few sticks to take home. I’ll make one last meal for myself and my son. We’ll eat it. After that, we’ll die.”
13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home. Do what you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me. Make it out of what you have. Bring it to me. Then make some for yourself and your son. 14 The Lord is the God of Israel. He says, ‘The jar of flour will not be used up. The jug will always have oil in it. You will have flour and oil until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ ”
15 She went away and did what Elijah had told her to do. So Elijah had food every day. There was also food for the woman and her family. 16 The jar of flour wasn’t used up. The jug always had oil in it. That’s what the Lord had said would happen. He had spoken that message through Elijah.
Did you catch that? "I'll make one last meal...after that, we'll die." That is heavy. This woman was done. She had accepted she had nothing left and not only was her own life going to be over, but every mother's worst nightmare was coming true for her as well-- she couldn't even provide food for her child and he would die too. And then here comes someone asking her for some bread! She knew she didn't have enough to survive another day, and yet she trusted this prophet and his God.
And the flour wasn't used up. The jug always had oil in it.
To me this story doesn't mean that we won't lose the job or the sickness won't come. To me this story is a reminder of daily trust in a faithful God in spite of our circumstances.
This widow couldn't open the door to her pantry and see all the oil that the Lord had promised her. She didn't have an Amazon Prime receipt of what was going to be delivered. She just had to trust it would be there, and that it would be enough to sustain for one more day.
And then eventually the rain came.
Would I have that kind of faith? I can't even seem to make it to bedtime some days and simply trust that God will give me enough energy for the next day.
But in the midst of these very full, often chaotic days, I hear my God saying, "The flour won't be used up. The jug will always have oil in it."
Just last week I told someone that I don't feel like what I'm doing right now is something I could sustain very long; if I didn't know having three small children at home were for just a season and I thought it was for indefinitely I don't know what I could do it. But this bible story reminds me: I can't. God will.
And so if you see a van careening down the highway, things flying around inside, and children screaming, listen a little closer and you'll probably also hear my new song these days: Give me oil in my lamp, I pray. Give me oil in my lamp, keep it burning, burning, burning. Keep it burning till the break of day.
And if your flour and oil seem to be running out these days too, feel free to join me at the chorus.