Servants wait to be called. But children approach anyway.
Christians often share their stories about how they’re living out their faith. Many of these are filled with hope and fresh ideas, fitting for our time. But there’s a phrase I’ve heard so many times, “I realised this was what God was calling me to do.” The emphasis is on finding God’s will.
We talk negatively about our own will much of the time. We acknowledge that God is a loving God, so we can trust his call will enliven us. But our will has to be couched within his will.
And… on one level, I get this. I believe God is good. I want his will to be done on earth because I know he’s unselfish and wise. I get that. I’m not interested in doing anything outside of God’s will.
But… I find it dissatisfying when the search for “God’s will” consumes our life of faith. It’s like “the Calling” becomes more important than what God wants to achieve through that calling.
And I don’t see why it’s always on God to tell us about our next big thing. Are we not looking at the world? Are we not thinking through the issues? Are we not wishing, imagining, and planning creatively?
God doesn’t call us his ‘children’ to infantilise us or remind us of how small we are. It’s to tell us we have privileges as we partner with the maker of heaven and earth. It’s not just he who calls us – we get to call on him. We get to bring our ideas to the table. His business is our business and we can be movers and shakers in his plans.
The parent-child relationship is often talked about as a one-way street: parents lead, children obey. But I’m convinced it’s meant to be more reciprocal. The privilege of children is that they get to shape and change the household.
And sure, children have moments when they need mentoring. And of course, it can be good for parents to share ideas with their children.
But I want to hear it said more often, “I had this idea, and I took it God, and he was like, ‘Go for it, sounds great.’”
A short look at the Bible
Today’s passage is 1 Samuel 2:1-10.
I don’t suppose you noticed any similarities between this song and Mary’s song?
The song from 1 Samuel was written by a woman named Hannah. She lived just before David’s time, so about 1000 BCE.
Hannah couldn’t have kids. To make things worse, her husband’s other wife was really spiteful about it. (Polygamy was a thing back then.) So, Hannah asked God to enable her to have a child and she promised to give the child back to God, if he answered her prayer.
Then she had a son named Samuel. Yes, this Old Testament book is named after him. And when she dedicated Samuel, she sang this song. (She had other children afterwards.)
I get that this is a bit messy. This song was probably, partly, swiping at the other wife. Plus, women shouldn’t have to have children to be respected.
But this is Hannah’s account of how God vindicated her.
Bear in mind, people thought if bad things happen to you, you deserve them. To her peers, Hannah’s baby proved she hadn’t committed some unforgivable sin. I can only imagine how much shame was lifted off her shoulders.
Meanwhile, there is some awesome theology here. I love her boldness, how she sings about God humbling the proud, and lifting up the humble. For her, just as it was for Mary, the good news is about flipping the tables of inequality. Plus, she sings about God establishing a righteous king. And resurrection.
I’ll admit, I’d feel weird writing a song triumphing over my “enemies.” But then, I associate that word with ethnic divisions and nationalism. As I read this song, Hannah’s concerns seem more about pride and injustice towards the poor. And I definitely have issue with these.
Lastly, the other thing I love about Hannah was that having a child was her idea. While I hate how she was stigmatised when she didn’t have children, I love that she went to God with this.
God didn’t announce that she’d have a son or call her to dedicate him. She asked and she offered. God listened and responded.
Invitation to pray
We each pray in our own way; some of the best advice I had was ‘Pray as you can, not as you can’t.’ So I offer an invitation to pray – not an instruction.
Do you have the courage to take your ideas to God? If not, why do you think this might be? Talk honestly with God about the reasons you hold back from involving him more. Ask him what he thinks and give him a chance to reply.
If you feel confident about sharing your ideas with God, think about the one that takes up most of your time and effort right now. Ask him to show you more of what he wants to achieve with it.
If you have any questions or feedback about this series, please feel free to contact me. I do my best, but can make mistakes, and my theology is always under construction.
All posts in the series can be found via the tag Xmas2020.