Bible Workbench: Proper 28, November 15, 2009

Text: I Samuel 1:4-20

Hannah, why do you weep?  Why do you not eat?  Why is your heart sad?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

As Lillian Klein points out in today’s Critical Background material, Elkanah’s questioning of Hannah permits her no reply.  He may think he is offering her comfort.  After all, how could a woman want anything more than him!  Or, tired of her sulking he may be trying to shut her up.  Perhaps he is multi-tasking and going for a little of both.  In any case, he does not grant her the dignity of her suffering.

How often are our own relationships—marriages in particular—like this?  Suffering, no matter how difficult for the bearer, would seem to be even more uncomfortable to witness.  We do not want a loved one to suffer, but perhaps more selfishly, we do not want to be pulled into their suffering.  How much easier it is to fix the problem (as Elkanah tries to do by giving Hannah a double portion for the sacrifice), assuage the guilt, or stroke the ego than it is to ask, “What ails thee?” and then to really listen to the answer.  To be truly compassionate, we must look through the tear-filled eyes of our beloveds and allow the sobbing which racks their bodies to penetrate our souls.  The restoration of harmony within our relationships and within the world requires, not platitudes or even solutions, but a willingness to suffer with.

– Kathie Collins

  • Hannah’s despair (Biblical Art on the WWW)
  • Barren Woman Blog (thoughts from Rachel, who writes,
    Hello, my name is Rachel. I am infertile.
    If this was a meeting, this is where you all would say, “Hello, Rachel.”
    “Infertile” is such a harsh word. In biblical times, the word was “barren.” I’m not sure I really like either of them, though. What it means is I feel like less than a woman. How can God design women to have babies, and marriage to produce babies, and two faithful followers can’t fulfill His designs? It definitely sucks.
    I hope to use this blog to sort of sort through my feelings. I have no idea if anyone will ever read it, but this is the first step – writing it all down.
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