On October 26, 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before a group of students in Philadelphia and gave a speech that became known as “The Street Sweeper Speech.” He encouraged the young people to tackle their life’s work with gusto.
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. —What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?
In Lois T. Henderson’s novel Abigail, the young heroine takes MLK’s message a step further. Faced with an inescapable betrothal to drunken Nabal, Abigail resolves to be a good wife but not with the goal of earning respect for herself. Instead she tells herself,
“I will be a good wife that all the earth will know there is a God in Israel.”
Two weeks ago, I hit the end of the week feeling frustrated. Life wasn’t going my way, and I didn’t know how to change it. Can you related?! Many days later than I should have, I opened my journal and began pouring my thoughts and frustrations out to God. In the firm yet gentle way He has with His children, He reminded me to spend less time focused on my annoyance and more time trusting Him. The weight on my heart lifted as soon God shifted my focus.
A few days later, I grabbed Abigail from my bookshelf as I rushed out the door. It was a snap decision but on the drive to work, my favorite morning radio program featured a devotional thought based on Abigail. I walked into my workplace sharing a smile with God, convinced that there are no coincidences in His world and eager to start reading during my lunch break.
Lois T. Henderson imagines Abigail as a spirited girl with a gift for song. When Samuel visits her hometown of Hebron and stays with her family, it thrills Abigail to hear about the newly anointed future king. Somehow she knows that she is destined to serve David in a special way. When Samuel relates the story of David and Goliath, Abigail adopts David’s words and uses them to give herself courage for her impending marriage.
Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands. —1 Samuel 17:45-47
Can you imagine David accomplishing one of the most famous feats of history while his future wife–still a stranger to him–entered a far less glamorous situation with the same goal and the same source of courage? God was honored both by David slaying Goliath and by Abigail submitting to her marriage to Nabal. God doesn’t play the comparison game. He looks at the heart and asks His servants to do tasks both big and small, glamorous and dirty, exulted and despised.
Marriage to Nabal was not God’s final plan for Abigail. Her willingness to obey when the situation was oppressive ended up being a building block in a bigger story. Abigail ended up as the wife of the greatest human king in history! Life as David’s wife couldn’t have been easy, but Abigail’s past prepared her to face the future with strength and honor.
Maybe you are feeling frustrated right now. Maybe you are in a position that you don’t want to stay in for the rest of your life. Maybe the tasks before you feel insignificant or maybe it feels like you’re facing a giant. Courage, dear heart. If your focus is on God, He will use you to accomplish His purposes. Your story isn’t over yet.
Will you join David and Abigail and live to show the world there is a God?