The Persistent Widow
Rev. EDWARD W. SMITH
New Joy Missionary Baptist Church
Listen to the lambs all a’crying …” these words begin a great choral composition, Listen to the Lambs, penned by the former director of the Hampton University Concert Choir, R. Nathaniel Dett. The piece was inspired by the prophet Isaiah’s encouragement to the children of Israel, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11 KJV).
Lambs are docile creatures whose gentle nature is often metaphorically used to describe a community that should be protected. When what should be guarded is left vulnerable, atrocities abound. Sometimes, I close my eyes and just listen; I can hear all the crying lambs! Admittedly, the deafening cries make me want to escape, but there is nowhere to run.
If you remember the movie Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter asks Jodie Foster’s character why she ran away from home. She responds that she was wakened by someone screaming. Coming to the barn, she sees the spring lambs being slaughtered. She tries to free them, but cannot, and runs away. This event happens to the character when she was fourteen, and as an adult, she confesses to still waking to the screaming of lambs. It is why she joins the FBI. As I reflected on the movie I thought, “at least she could run!” Nathaniel Dett challenges his listeners to listen, listen to those of us who can’t escape the existential realities of racism, classism, and sexism, and all the other isms that plague the disenfranchised. Listen, too, to those who soulfully sing the screeching hymns of malcontent, who dance daily the dirge of death, and consistently script text in response to a negative social condition. Listen to the message of those who warn: “Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge … it makes me wonder how I keep from going under!”
Consider the state of the Persistent Widow whose community left her vulnerable and forced her to the brink of despair, seeking relief from one who “feared not God, neither regarded man” (Luke 18:2 KJV). Her persistence paid off; she wearied the unjust judge and compelled him to avenge her. He listened. He saw her humanity. He helped.
Humans can no longer hold justice in the pillory of our antipodal estates. We must pursue righteousness and justice at all costs! All are recipients of God’s unconditional love. Jesus informs us that “God so loved the world …” (John 3:16). There were no restrictions. If you are the widow, don’t give up—persist!
• Reflect on a time when you were presented with the opportunity to provide relief for someone and you neglected to act. How is the text challenging your reasons for refusing?
• Consider how persistence has paid dividends in your life. What have you learned, and what aspect of the text most resonates with your experience?
• Sit quietly and listen; then contemplate how this reflection intersects with your life.