Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Elkanah and Ivory

The first reading yesterday was the start of 1 Samuel; it's the story of Hannah begging God for a child (Samuel).

Except it's not. The real start of 1 Sam is Hannah getting picked on by her husband Elkanah's other wife because she can't have kids. (Yeah, she's a real treat, that one. Think one of Cinderella's sisters, before the ravens pecked out her eyes.) And Elkanah tries to show Hannah how much he loves her, giving her bigger gifts than he gives his other wife and kids, but it's no use, she just cries and cries.

And at the end of the reading, right before she goes to the Temple to beg God, this is what Elkanah has to say: "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?"

It's not that Hannah doesn't have a point. She wants a baby and she can't have one. And I don't read Elkanah's comments even as a criticism or a scolding. It's more a reminder -- Hannah, you're not in it all alone. I'm right here beside you, and I love you.

At times life as a Jesuit can be a little like the Real Housewives (of wherever) or like working in Hollywood. There's lots of temptation to compare yourself to others, to live not out of what you have, but out of what you don't have.

But chase that dream and you will never be happy. Because you will always find someone who has more, who has done more, who seems happier, who has better connections. Some of the most successful people I know, in fact, are the most insecure.  It's weird, but true -- chasing after what you're missing is like hopping on a log in a stream: you're going to run really hard, and eventually you're going to fall on your --


(But we're not talking donkeys.)

Elkanah, to me, is like God, a kind spouse who reminds us of the gifts we have, of the real bedrock of love and acceptance to be found in our lives, which is oh so much more than all the baubles we sometimes think we need.

It's so easy to forget.



Pete the Brit said...

I needed this reminder today. Thank you.

Jim McDermott, S.J. said...

You bet!

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