Friday was a beautiful day. I was, amazingly, able to go on a retreat with the Bible Study I went back to this past Tuesday. Everything fell into place and childcare was taken care of, and the four of us ladies laid claim to a portion of one of the prettiest state parks in the area and got away from it all.
It wasn’t your typical ‘retreat.’ It wasn’t programmed to the nines. There wasn’t special music, or a speaker. It was just us… trying to make a concerted effort to listen to God for just that day. Kind of a scary thing. It felt a little out of control, but it turned out to be meaningful to all of us.
It involved a lot of alone time. I found a spot along a trail snaking along a bluff, low enough that I could hear the ocean and watch the waves crash, and high enough that I got a good full view of the beach below me. I sat alone–not having to bring my attention to important questions like, “Where is my daughter” and soaked into the sound of the waves and the feeling of solitude. It was so very sweet.
We did some study of the first few chapters of 1 Samuel. Reading the first bit about Hannah wanting a child desperately, making a vow that if God gave her a child that she was dedicate it to him, and then handing her just-weaned son over to Eli, gave me some… ok, probably less than holy thoughts. I found it pretty hard to get inside Hannah’s head. I wrote:
I struggle with this passage. Here is Hannah full of anguish and grief over not having a child… so despereate that she begs God for a child and promises to consecrate her son to God, and then when the baby is just weaned, she actually goes and presents him to Eli and leaves him at the temple…
I don’t understand why she longed for a child if in order to get one she would be willing to give him up entirely… What about raising him? What about being there to kiss his boo-boos and wash his face and discipline him when he had a tantrum? What about that part of being a mother? Was her desire to have a child simply to have the societal status of a mother with a son? Was it just about not being barren and stigmatizd? About being chosen for a gift? Are these pure motives?
I guess even if they aren’t pure motives, God took the consecration of Samuel and accomplished great things. Could this be an instance of God making glorious good come from the less than pure ways of our hearts?
If so, I have to let Hannah be human. I can do that.
I admire Hannah for making good on her promise….I can’t imagine how hard it would be to take my just-weaned baby and hand him over to a wild-eyed prophet. Did it grieve Hannah? Did she think it was worth it in the end?
So I guess we can say that that’s proof that being a mother makes you look at the world in an entirely different way, eh? I realize that I was a little hard on Hannah here…. Having never been in her situation it’s very unfair of me to judge her. I know society was entirely different at this time as well, but these things just had to be dealt with in me as I approached this story. I can’t help but think when I read of her leaving her tiny little boy with Eli–although I know that she was fulfilling a vow to God–“What was she thinking?”
Later I had to grapple with what I think is a distorted view of the God I long to call “Abba.” Here I wrote in a prayer:
I want to see you as a God with arms outstretched ready to gather me in… I want to see you as a God wanting Goodness for me and those you call your own–even those that you may not call your own. But I am so conscious of the fact that often goodness is supposed to be borne of badness… And so terrified of the pain… that I picture you so often as a God full of vengeance and wrath and anger and discipline…
This seems a distorted picture of my undersanding of Abba…
Abba is gentle and patient and lets me curl up on His lap. Abba covers me with kisses when I run to Him. Abba enfolds me in an embrace that means warmth and safetly.
I know that you ARE NOT safe, but I want to feel safe with you.
I need to take more time to listen and to dig and to get down to the nitty-gritty that is within me as I work out my salvation with fear and trembling. This retreat was a good reminder of that.