27 November 2014

Hannah: The Other Woman

1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

Forgive these tears -
I can't stop them anymore.
My sadness is an ocean
so deep I cannot eat,
so deep I cannot sleep.

Awake at night I hear them
sometimes, in the room next door -
him and her -
the other woman.
It had to be, he said.
And I understand.
But that doesn't help.
You'll always be my first love, he says.
And I believe him.
But that doesn't help either.
For my problem is not jealousy -
my problem is me.

Who is the other woman?
She, or me?
Who of us fulfills her purpose
as woman and as wife?
Who has done her duty -
and who has had to be replaced?
Are her tauntings true?
Sometimes I think they are
and I cry and I cry
and I can't tell him why
because he wouldn't understand.

Am I not more than sons? he says.
Of course he is -
but that doesn't help.
I love you even so, he says.
I know -
but that doesn't help either.
For nothing can help me -
but YOU.

Lord, you are the island
in my stormy ocean,
the rock I can hold on to,
the only hope for me.
You lift up the weak,
you feed the hungry,
you turn the barren woman
into a mother.
Your power can turn
the world upside-down.

Turn my world upside-down.
Change this sadness into joy,
and my begging into thanks.
Fill my empty rooms
with children's laughter
and give my life purpose again.
But not for me -
no, for your glory,
that your power can be seen
on a small, weak thing like me.
And I will give you all I have,
my greatest treasure,
my most valued gift:
the child
that you are giving me.


[January 2012]

I was trying to imagine what it might feel like for Hannah to be one of two wives - especially because she was the one who couldn't have children. In those days, a central part of a woman's life was bearing children. There's still cultures where women mainly exist as "baby machines" (extremely said). I can imagine that Elkanah married Peninnah because Hannah couldn't have children, and sort of "added" her so that he'd have heirs. Anyway, those were my background thoughts to this poem. ^^

I based a lot around Hannah's prayer in 1 Sam 2 - which is very similar to the Magnificat (Mary's prayer) in the Gospel of Luke: God turns the world around, He does things differently from our expectations, He is not like us. To the world, Hannah was a failure: a woman who couldn't fulfill her purpose in life, namely that of bringing children into the world. But God loved her - and He loves all of us too, even if the world does not accept us. God loves broken people - and He can make them whole.

22 November 2014

Queen of Sheba: Drawn by the Light

1 Kings 10:1-13 | Matthew 5:14-16

Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:3)

I saw your light shine from afar,
heard stories of riches,
of wisdom incomparable -
rumours, I thought,
but I could not help
but be drawn,
drawn to your light.

I have come to see
if the rumours are true.
I have come to see
your riches and fame.
I have come to see
if you're as wise as they say.
I have come,
drawn by your light.

And I see that the truth
surpasses wildest rumour,
that the light is even brighter
when seen up close,
and I wish I could take
and keep a little spark,
take it home so it can spread
and envelop the world.

I want to know
more about you,
I want to know
the source of your wisdom,
I want to know
the meaning of this blessing -
I want to know your God.

For He is the one
who put the light in you -
He is the one
who draws all to you -
He is the one
who can light a spark in me -
now I am drawn,
drawn to Him.


[15. November 2014]

The Queen of Sheba (assumed to be in today's Yemen or Ethiopia) heard about Solomon from far away, and wanted to see for herself whether what she had heard was true. She actually brought riddles and questions to properly "test" Solomon's famed wisdom!! This story made me think of the "light of the world" passage in Mt 5, and also of the "light" passage in Isaiah 60.

When God's light shines in us, when we belong to Him and live according to His will and He lives with us and in us, then other people will (or should) notice something about us. Even without saying anything at all (and maybe even without realising it) we "preach" the Gospel by the way we live, the way God is present in and among us. This can lead to people asking questions, wanting to know why we are different - or, as Peter puts it: wanting to know the reason for the hope in us (1 Peter 3:15).

Being a Christian is not a "private matter"... if we are truly following Jesus, then it will be visible. You can't hide a city that's standing on a hill - even if you try to! Also, people watch us - maybe with a critical eye, maybe with a curious eye. The way we live out our faith can attract people to it. I have heard of families in East Asia, where after one person became a Christian, the rest of the family was at first very sceptical, until they saw how that person's life changed for the better, and that either made them accept his decision, or seek out Christianity themselves!

So let us live out our faith and follow Jesus in such a way that people will ask questions! They might be like the Queen of Sheba and ask riddles and "trick questions" first. ;) But that can lead on to them realising the truth about Jesus, and praising God like the Queen of Sheba did at the end of her visit!

Picture by Giovanni Demin.

15 November 2014

Sisera's Mother: Waiting

Judges 5:28-30

It is late.
Call me silly - but I worry,
I worry as I wait.

I know
you are a grown man now,
can care for yourself.
I know
your old mother annoys you
when she worries too much,
when she asks too many questions,
when she pressures you
to come home in time
as if you were still a little boy
getting into scrapes,
I know -
but I worry,
I worry as I wait.

Don't you know
that to me you are still
that vulnerable child,
coming home crying
after a fight?
A great warrior you may be -
but to me you'll always be
my baby.
And so I worry,
I worry as I wait.

Don't worry, they say.
Don't be silly, they say.
You must be celebrating
another victory
(what else could it be?
You never lose.)
with a girl or two -
why shouldn't you?
Why think of
this old mother of yours,
why care about me
in your hour of victory?
Maybe they're right -
I believe they are right -
because I don't want to consider
what it would mean if
they're wrong.

But still I worry,
I worry as I wait.
It is late.
come home.


[15. November 2014]

Sisera is the guy who was killed with a tent pole, stuck through his head by Jael. (So yes: he's not coming back...) The whole story is in Judges 4-5. Sisera was the commander of the army of a Canaanite king who was oppressing the Israelites during the time of the Judges.

I decided with this poem to focus on the feelings of a mother who stays up late waiting and worried. Young people like me might find it a bit annoying to be asked "Where have you been?" or "When are you coming home?" or "Can't you take the earlier train??" (Frequently Asked Question by my Mamma some years back, haha..) but maybe we need to understand that mothers aren't trying to curb our independence or control our movements or keep us small and dependent (at least not intentionally) - they're simply concerned out of love for their children, they want their children to be safe. Maybe a better way to react to (what seems like "over-the-top") motherly concern is to be thankful and say "I love you too", instead of getting annoyed? :-)

(And thinking of Sisera and his waiting mother: "I know, I'm late... at least I'm not dead with a tent pole through my head...") (DON'T try that kind of comment though!!)

Picture by Joseph Albert Moore.