My childhood spiritual experiences are diverse. My father sang in the choir while I was still small enough to lie across his fellow choir members and sleep during the long sermons. By the time I was in elementary school, I’d begun attending church with my great aunt and learned quickly that if I answered the questions correctly, I would get all kinds of snacks as rewards. Pre-adolescent ushered in the wonderful experiences of church camps which were the beginning to my understanding the difference between spirituality and religion.
By the time I was a teenager, I’d made arrangements to ride to church with a large family down the street taking on the responsibility of my own spiritual development. Along the way, I learned the bible story of the two mothers who’d had babies around the same time. Unfortunately, one of the precious babies died during the night. The grieving mother switched her deceased baby with the living baby right out of the other mother’s sleeping arms. Naturally, the wronged mother realized what had happened and the matter was eventually taken to the king. At this point, most bible study lessons focus on the wisdom of the king and the skill he used in discerning the true mother of the living child.
Of interest to me in reviewing this lesson as an adult, are the character essences of the mothers to demonstrate the appropriate behavior of a Christian when in disagreement with another Christian. Refer to 1 Kings 3: 16-28).
The mother for who we have no name because there is no English term for a parent who has lost a child – is of the most concern to me. There are several character essences to explore with this mother; faith, trust, temperament, and focus. She demonstrated a considerable lack of faith during one of the most devastating events of a mother’s life. I can’t think of a single friend, colleague, or client I’ve worked with who would deny fearing the loss of a newborn when first brought home from the hospital. Mothers watch their babies closely night after night; even those who have demonstrated a lifetime of faithful obedience to God. When a new life enters their space and is totally dependent on the mother for sustenance, it takes more faith than ever imagined to manage those new feelings.
So, it’s no surprise to me that she had no trust in what God was doing at that point in her life when her baby stopped breathing. Her faith and trust in God were directly challenged by such a monumental loss. At this point, God urges his children to turn to him for our comfort and direction instead of relying on innate natural responses which is based on a fight or flight response. She did not flee, she fought with what may have been her natural response or an abnormal response for her. I would venture to say it was her natural response because of how she conducted herself while in front of the king. Someone who acted out of character at the time of the trauma, would not continue to remain in this character given the time to settle and think rationally.
Now this matter of temperament is a different arena. Temperament is defined by Merriam-Webster as “characteristic or habitual inclination or mode of emotional response.” Remember, I mentioned the natural response of the mother when faced with this awful event. Her response is the direct outcome of her temperament. I can just hear her friends and family saying, as they waited outside of the king’s domain, “I bet she did steal that woman’s baby. She is known to do silly stuff like that.” Her circle knows exactly what her temperament was before the incident. People know you by your actions, especially during times of difficulty. Do you resolve conflict with understanding and patience, or do you attack and bully people? Do you exhibit the spirit of God? Or, do you glorify Satan with your conduct and word?.
Everyone acknowledges she genuinely lost something of considerable value to her. However, her decision to lie, steal, and attack another person who shared a blessed experience with her was ungodly. There had to have been some type of relationship as the women were sleeping with their young children in the same abode. I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t sleep peacefully enough or hard enough for someone to take my child out of my arms if I did not have a peaceful relationship with the person sharing the abode. So, they knew each other. The mother who lost her child was impulsive. She made the decision to take another person’s blessing within the span of hours overnight. This tells me that she had adverse feelings towards her housemate that exceeded her grief over losing her child. What was underneath her facade rose to the surface and she attacked the person who would have likely empathized with her more than anyone else in her spectrum because of their shared sisterhood in recently birthing children. Her sole focus was to satisfy her needs without regard for how God would want her to handle the situation and the impact she would have on those around her.
The mother whose child lived did not attack but she spoke up for herself.. Although she was also challenged with the loss of her child, there is no record that she attacked the woman who stole her child. She stood before the king, told of her situation, and challenged the woman who wronged her. As with the woman whose child died, her faith was put on display for all to see during a moment in time which was amazingly frightening. We see her stand on faith as she stood before the king and declared her parentage. Although she’d been wronged by a woman who she thought was a friend, she stood before the king for a resolution.
But what about her temperament? Are there any indicators in the story which suggest this woman was rude, impulsive, malicious about her approach towards life? Think of the quietest woman you know and ask yourself how she would respond if you walked up and took her newborn baby out of her arms. It is human nature to have a fight or flight response in times of adversity, and most of us would fight a person who is trying to take our newborn child. There is no indication in scripture this mother physically attempted to fight her adversary. All we know is she stood before the king, stated her claim, and awaited his response. Even though she was faced with the possibility of losing her child to an unscrupulous woman, she responded in the same manner, Godly.
Both women were focused on the child. However, the first woman was focused on ownership of the child while the second woman was focused on the well-being of the child. She was willing to sacrifice her privilege of parenting for the safety of the newborn. You see where I’m going with this, the first mother was only willing to sacrifice everything Godly about herself to have the child. She wanted the baby and was willing to lie, steal, and kill. Yes, when the king said he would divide the child between the two of them, she was satisfied that neither would have a child.
These are the same characteristics we need to focus on when in disagreements as Christians. Nothing about us should reflect the heart of Satan – impulsive, selfish, dogged, and unreasonable. At all times, we should focus on the problem and move to resolve the problem. We are charged to trust God (2 Samuel 7:28) at all times even when in conflict. If you are arguing and a resolution of one is to destroy everything in place in order to win the argument, walk away. This person does not trust God and means you no good. If you find yourself willing to sacrifice everything in order to win an argument, walk away. You mean yourself no good. Seek God’s will in everything you do. Stop telling people you are waiting to hear from God about something when His word is written. Go to the word about your dilemma and do not rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).