by Reverend Amanda
This week, Maddie misplaced her Boop (a stuffed elephant she loves). She could not remember where she left him last and it was time to go up to bed. As I announced “Ok Maddie time for bed”, a look of horror washed over her face as she realized she did not have Boop. Immediate she turned to me panicking and asking “Mommy where’s Boop”. Unfortunately, I had no idea where she left him last. But I did know that it was somewhere in the house because we do not allow her to take Boop out of the house. So we spent 15 minutes tearing apart the house trying to figure out where she could have possibly left her stuffed animal. This search for something that is so important to us is often a very familiar feeling to us in life. It is the same type of search we enter into when trying to find meaning in our lives.
In our scriptures, we see Hannah is very much in that mode of desperate searching. We are taught in this passage that at the altar of God, our desperate search for answers, for God, is always welcome. In many ways, those times of our lives are the most important times for us to connect and deepen our faiths in God. Part of supporting our churches, part of supporting the mission of God, is to come before our God with authenticity, with out searching, with our pain, and with our desperation in life. We are called to bring our curiosity, and the tough questions in life and to search out God in those experiences offering up to God in those moments the messiness of our very human lives. This is exactly what Hannah does.
Let’s take a look into Hannah’s life. Hannah was the second wife of Samuel’s father Elkanah yet she was the favorite in the household. This is shown by how he gave to Hannah double portions of food. More than what Penninah received though she provided her husband with all of his children and she was the first wife.
However, Hannah would have felt as if she were not fulfilling her role in life because she was barren and could not provide children for her husband. Being barren, in the ancient world was something to be ashamed of. It was seen as a curse upon that individual. Hannah appears to have been tormented by Penninah for being barren. Perhaps, she did this because she was jealous of the extra attention that Hannah received from Elkanah. Elkanah tries to be supportive but in my opinion and that of many other women alike, he seems to fall short coming off as insensitive and somehow detached from her emotions. He says that he should be more than enough to make her happy. Thus, trying to make her feel better about her situation.
Culturally, Hannah was not considered a full grown woman until she gave birth to her first child. She was teased and made fun of by the other women. And she longed to fill the role of motherhood. So she went to God: searching and praying. She turned to God in search of comfort and the child she so longed for. When God did bless her with a child she showed her praise through her son. She dedicated Samuel to the work of God. His life was her praise. In her painful searching, in her painful prayers, we see that God reached out to her in compassion and blessed her. In his response to her prayers, we see that God welcomes all of us to bring our troubles before him. He will work that pain, that searching into a reason to sing our praises as we learn just how God works in this world and in our personal life experiences.
So I ask, what do we bring with us to God and worship? When we come to worship, when we come together before God we are being asked to bring with us all of our questions, our stresses, our anxieties, our fears and worries because our God wants us to share those with him. He wants us to trust in him enough to be vulnerable just like Hannah did. So that in those moments of question, grief, and seeking we can find the truth of the love and presence of God in our lives. So that in our moments of seeking we can have our eyes opened to the message that God intends to share with us about the truth of his love for us as individuals, as a community, and as a world. Albert Camus says this about seeking, “Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable”. If you want to learn about God, if you want to find the truth about God’s presence and work in the world, then trust in him enough to come to him in your vulnerability, to come to him open to his presence and in those moments you will see God in all of his mercy and power.
Let’s come to God with all of our questions, our curiosities, our pain, and those questions that keep us up at night. We should come to him with our tears and our anguish because it is in that type of deep seeking that we get to discover truths about God the strengthen our faiths and give us the blessings that truly make our hearts rejoice. Remember our scriptures said, “Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him”. No matter how desperate our search, our God is present and ready to guide us to the answers that we need. This week take the time to engage God in real, authentic prayer, even if it appears messy. For God offers to enter the mess of life with us and he offers to help sort it all out.
Albert Camus, 20th century Philosopher and author.
Psalm 16 and 1 Samuel 1:4-20