In today’s reading from 1 Samuel, Samuel has announced to the people that Saul is to be their king, and the people have affirmed this by choosing him by lot. (Sounds a little like General Convention’s process to choose a new Presiding Bishop, doesn’t it?) Yet at the very moment the rubber meets the road, Saul is nowhere to be seen. Ironically, in the narrative, it’s God who rats him out as to his whereabouts–he’s hiding among his baggage! (The KJV version is even more wonderful–“Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.”)
The Hebrew word for baggage/stuff–keliy–is used for a variety of objects including “bag,” “armor,” “weapon,” “jewel,” and the ubiquitous “thing.” In short, Saul is hiding among the kinds of things that make us feel protected, or that we have ownership, or give us a sense of power.
“But wait,” you might think, “Being made king has all kinds of power!” and, indeed, it does. Yet at the same time there’s a huge vulnerability. Nothing a person in power ever does escapes the scrutiny of those who dislike them, or disagree with them, and we see towards the end of the reading, Saul hasn’t hardly been king five minutes and there are already grumblers. Truthfully, Saul’s no fool for not wanting to face the music and accept the mantle of ruler.
Over the next few days to weeks, as we follow this story in the Hebrew Scriptures, and as we see Saul’s mantle passed to David, we’re going to discover that Saul’s reign is pockmarked by repeated episodes of hiding in his own baggage. Today’s reading is only the first glimpse, and a prophetic one at that.
We are reminded in today’s story that all of us, when the pressure is on, we too often find solace in our own baggage–the armor of a hard heart, the bag in which we hold our secret wounds, the jewel of our possessions, the weapons of sharp tongue or pointy keyboard fingers, and just the general all around “stuff” that gives us a false sense of security. When we dare not take the step of vulnerability, to acknowledge that all we are, and all we have belongs to God, we end up hiding from our most authentic selves, the selves God saw in us before we were born, and the selves God earnestly desires we become. Indeed, there will be grumblers when this happens. Yet at the same time we can also discover just how beloved a part of the Beloved Community that we are.
When is a time that God called you, and you were found hiding among the baggage of your life? Who or what gave you the courage to step out from behind the armor of false self and follow that call?
Image: JAMES SMETHAM (1821-1889) SAUL “HIDING AMONG THE STUFF”