“Only her (Hannah’s) lips moved but her voice was not heard.”
I Samuel 1: 13
The Silenced Daughter
“Speech is the mark of humanity.”
Susanne K. Langer
Has someone ever tried to “silence” me?
How have they attempted to accomplish my “silencing”?
What did it make me feel like to be “silenced”?
“Every day silence harvests its victims. Silence is a mortal illness.”
“Sticks and stones are hard on bones. Aimed with angry art, words can sting like anything. But silence breaks the heart.” - Phyllis McGinley
When I was growing up, there were certain words my sister and I were absolutely forbidden to use at home. My parents’ rules included all curse words – period! But added to the list was the word, “Shut-up!” You couldn’t and didn’t say this. My parents noted it was rude to tell someone to “shut-up.” And uncivil talk or impolite behavior was discouraged by my parents in every way. I wish the same could be said today, however, rudeness rather than being a sign of disrespect, now seems to be the norm. How pathetic and unChristlike we have become.
As I got older and began dating and having an active social life, I found that the word “shut-up” also had another element associated with it. It was an extremely demeaning thing for a man to say to a woman. I’ll never forget the first time someone I was dating casually retorted, “Oh, shut-up!” I gasped. I wasn’t just stunned. I was silenced. Needless to say, that person didn’t remain in my life for long because I recognized that attempting to silence another, whether man or woman, is a form of abuse. When I tell you to “shut-up,” I’m saying your opinions, ideas, thoughts and concerns don’t matter to me.
This is why I want to take a few moments to look at our text in I Samuel 1: 13, for it is what I call the “silencing” of Hannah. And everyday, still in our world today, there are those who are endeavoring to silence the daughters of God around the world.
Whether it’s a hidden face or a closed mouth; whether it’s verbal threats or physical abuse; whether it’s intentionally ignoring or deafening shouts – God’s girls today are still silenced by sorrow, grief, agony, torture and death. There’s nothing like having the barrel of a gun shoved in your face to make you keep your mouth shut.
In the case of Hannah, years of verbal abuse, coupled with self-imposed starvation brought her to a moment when at God’s house, the grief in her heart was so great, she was unable to speak about it with her lips and instead could only mouth in silence the corrosive agony that inflicted unbearable destruction on her heart.
What saddens me so much is that at God’s house, where the soul should be able to find complete release, is where the “silenced” Hannah was further degraded by being called a drunk. And I ask you, “If a drunk spoke, who would actually believe what they were saying in the first place?” Eli, the priest, by exposing Hannah to words like, “You’re drunk,” was in essence saying to her, “Shut-up, what you have to say means nothing. You’re only a drunk.”
Author Nelly Sachs wrote “Silence is where the victims dwell,” and in the case of Hannah, silence turned her into a casualty of Eli’s preconceived biases that one who was unable to articulate their sorrow wasn’t worth listening to. Eli devalued Hannah with his name-calling just as Peninnah had with her heckling.
However, the day came, when in the words of Elizabeth Bowen, “Silence had a climax.” Hannah had to speak. No one would shut her up for this daughter of God recognized the worth her Father had placed upon her. The Bible says, “but Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit…I was pouring out my soul before the Lord” (I Samuel 1: 15, Amplified Bible), or as the Hebrew so beautifully states: “I was expending my life before my Father.”
It is the safe place before our Father where we as God’s daughters must always remember that we are NEVER silenced. And anyone who tries to silence us, be it mate, pastor, priest or any other person – is acting outside of the will of our Father who promised through the prophet Isaiah that when Christ came to earth, the silenced would speak.
In a treasure of a book entitled, Celebrating Women, edited by Hannah Ward, Jennifer Wild and Janet Morley is a prayer called “Broken Silence” which invites all women to unlock the stories of Biblical women too long silenced.
However, I would encourage us as women living in the 21st Century to, as Hannah did before her Father, break the silence that is either self-imposed or inflicted on us by others, and release the heavenly words placed within the confines of our hearts by our Creator:
“O women whose voices have never been heard:
We repent of our deafness,
We confess our stubborn hearts and closed minds.
O women whose words have been consigned to silence:
We grieve for the wisdom which has been lost.
O women whose wisdom has not been heeded:
We desire that our time will be different and
We commit ourselves now to listen.
We will turn again to search out the scriptures.
We will look for the clues of your lives in the margins of history’s pages.
We will seek out your words in secret places.
We will dig for your treasure hidden deep in the dark.”
“Women’s Words in the Night”
“We are the hands that rock the cradle.
But what if our hands are battered and bloody?
tremble from coercion?
abandon the cradle?
We are the voices that sing the lullaby.
But what if our voices are faint?
shriek with rage?
We are the eyes that behold hope.
But what if our eyes are closed?
glazed with pain?
ignore the vision?
We are the hearts that burst with reconciliation.
But what if our hearts embrace forgiveness?
flower with justice?
redeem the violence?”
Ms. Margaret J. Faulk
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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