My facebook feed has been filled with bad news for women. From this post about the lack of barriers in business for incompetent men, to this post about the “glass cliff” which posits that women are called in just as the whole organization is about to fall off the cliff, to the triggering remarks made by one of our presidential candidates, it’s been a tough couple of weeks.
I won’t go into the full story, because Working Preacher recounts it well, but suffice it to say that Hannah has a tough life. Her sister-wife is torturing her, she’s barren, and somehow she doesn’t seem to engender feelings of trust (the priest thinks she’s drunk while she’s sitting on the Temple steps). What she really wants is a child.
But that’s not really what she wants. We all know that in Hebrew Bible times women were considered “less than” if they didn’t have children. Children (especially boys) solidified your relationship with your husband, ensured your financial security, and validated your role as a full human being.
Hannah wanted to matter. And she wanted to have some security.
Not much to ask, eh?
And today? It’s not all that different, is it? We take the jobs on the glass cliff, because we really want to make a living. We make our stand with less-than-competent men, because we want validation that our selves matter. We put up with unbearable things (like what Trump said about that actress) because we are often safer putting up with it than we are without it.
Hannah wanted to matter. I want to matter. I bet you want to matter, too.
What would it mean to live in a world where we do matter? What if we lived in a world without threat of violence, where we could let our guard down for just a moment, and not have to worry that a guy at the party will hurt us? What if we lived in a world where we were judged on our ideas, our skills, our character, rather than our breasts? What if we lived in a world where people believed in us as much as we wanted to believe in ourselves?
Hannah mattered. She mattered to God. She mattered to Eli. She mattered to her husband. And she mattered to the story of the Hebrew people. She wanted to make sure that others mattered, too. In her song she says, “He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.” May we also be raised.
You might head some other directions with the story of Hannah:
- What is the role of the church in infertility? Should we have one? Eli prays with and for Hannah, how can we pray with and for our congregants who are struggling?
- Often with illness and despair, we promise God that we will give something in return for God’s favor. Hannah promised her son. What have you promised? And is this a valid way to pray?
- Hannah returned to the Temple to dedicate her son to God’s service. How do we dedicate our children to God now? Does this, in some way, take away the full rights of Samuel to make his choice? What implication does this have for our parenting?
- Hannah was embroiled in conflict with her sister-wife. How can we create models of friendship between women that do not involve jealousy and spitefulness?
Where will you go with this text? I look forward to your comments!
Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013).
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