What Happened To Ichabod?
In posing this question, I’m not talking about Ichabod Crane, but rather an Ichabod that is not as well known in our culture. In 1 Samuel 4 we find Israel in a mess. Their Priests Eli and his sons Hophni & Phinehas are the epitome of corrupt religious leadership. Think of the negative stereotypes many people believe about Christians and pastors and you’ll have a good idea of the situation going on. And in a style that is often found in people who are pious and arrogant, Hophni & Phinehas go down in a way that is tragic and end up taking many with them. As the Israelites find themselves under attack they decide to take the Ark of the Covenant into the battle. In the past God has shown up for them and they figure He’ll do it again. Never mind that they didn’t ask Him for direction. Never mind they are being led by corrupt men. They decide to don the Ark as if it is a magic totem that brings God to their beck and call, but God doesn’t show up and defeat the Philistines as He had done in the past. Instead the Israelites loose 30,000 men, Hophni & Phinehas included, and the Ark is taken. Eli was very old at this time and when he heard of his sons’ death and the Ark being taken, he fell over and broke his neck and died. And Phinehas’s wife who was pregnant goes into labor at the news and ends up dying during child birth. This is where my imagination starts to wonder. Did she die because of physical reasons due to giving birth or did she simply quit wanting to live? Her situation seemed dire. She went from being married to one of the most influential men in the land to being widowed, loosing her father-in-law, and being faced with the frailty of the kingdom in which she lived.
But she doesn’t die peacefully, she instead marks her son with a name that will forever remind him of what he comes from. She names him Ichabod which means “Where is the glory?” and laments at the glory being gone from Israel because the Ark is gone. Now, I’m not a mom so I don’t fully understand the bond between mothers and their children, but I am human and I love kids. I’ve worked with them to train and prepare them for life ever since I was one. And I can’t imagine saddling a child with a name like that. And back then names had way more meaning in everyday life than they do now. And this women, names her kid “where is the glory?” I’ll be honest, I have to fight the temptation to think the worst of this woman and judge her for doing that to her kid. Where is the instinct to protect him? Where are the prayers for God to sweep in and save him and the people of Israel? Where is the fight to hope for a better future for him than what he’s coming from? And what of this poor kid who’s name will serve as a reminder for Israel’s dark day? His parents and grandfather are gone and he must bear the weight of their sins because people love to talk. How many times was he shunned for being Phineas’s kid? How many people had his father stolen from and seduced that would now look on Ichabod with disdain? And he had no say in the matter, he was just born into it. So I started to look into if anything else is known of Ichabod and discovered he is mentioned 10 chapters later in reference to his nephew. So he had at least one brother and didn't grow up completely alone and his nephew was a priest so possibly Ichabod continued in the family business. After digging a little more, I discovered many scholars believe that he must have been considered a significant character in those days because his named was dropped in reference to his nephew. I’m hoping he was known for breaking the cycle. You see Ichabod had a great choice. He could either live with the shame, in his case because of his family and their choices, or learn from it and choose differently. It’s the same choice we all have everyday. Shame will come at us and threaten to take us down like a paper airplane caught in a rainstorm. It’s inevitable that this unseen foe effects us all. But how we handle it is the key. For me it’s been about learning how to identify when shame is trying to sinks it’s claws into me and that when it does I need to get away. I am not fit to be around anyone when it happens and need to be alone with God and let Him remind me of who I am. I need to process what I’m feeling, figure out what I really need to own, and come up with a game plan for how to proceed. Shame is the lie of “I’m wrong.” It’s very different from guilt which says “I did wrong.” But like Ichabod, we have a choice to make everyday when we say or do something we wish we hadn’t, or when someone responds to us in a way that could be shaming. We all have to choose because shame can only be ignored so long before it comes out in some way, shape, or form. I refuse to allow it to cling to me like a label.
Like Ichabod, people will try and put labels on us because of our actions or the actions done to us. And often these labels can bring shame, but we have the choice to own them or not. I really hope that Ichabod didn’t own that name and instead used it as a fuel to help him live a better life than it seems his mother expected him to have. So this morning, I’m left wondering what happened to Ichabod...