Summary: Like Samuel, we are often frustrated in our intentions. But turning to prayer, as he did, will help us remove the blame from ourselves, will help us understand the motives of others, and will help us accept reality and move on toward something better.
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC September 14, 1986
Some weeks ago I told you that one of my principal projects in starting my service as your pastor would have to be spending time trying to learn my way around the city of Takoma Park. DC I can handle and Silver Spring is a breeze, but Takoma Park was evidently the creation of a blind surveyor who was drunk half the time and sleepy the other half. And so one day last week I struck out to visit somebody, consulted my maps and my memory, and bravely struck out to find a certain street. What I found, instead, was New Hampshire Avenue. So I turned around, had another run at it, steered blissfully west, and came out right there, on New Hampshire Avenue. Nothing to do but park and study the map and memorize the turns and twists, and then drive with one eye on the road and the other on the map on the seat beside me: right here, left there, U-turn now, here we come, this must be, no, no, I think this is, oh wow, New Hampshire Avenue. Now that's frustration. Frustration when you just can't get there from here; frustration when every plan and plot and stratagem you devise runs back to the same deadly place. Never did like New Hampshire Avenue all that much anyway. Frustration.
Frustration comes when you can't get where you need to go, you can't do what you need and want to do. Frustration is going with your son out to the highway where he has abandoned his worthless bucket of bolts to try to work on it, only to find that your socket wrench set, having both English and metric sizes in every conceivable shape and length and form, is missing only one piece – just one little socket, namely, the one you absolutely have to have the disconnect the flibbertgibbet from the whamfrazzle. Frustration.
Frustration, I say, is knowing what you want to do, even what you must do, and finding that no matter how you attack it, it can't be done. It just cannot be done. Frustration is that feeling of near panic you have when you have tried everything to accomplish what you know must be accomplished, yet it will not budge. Frustration must have been the feeling that surged up within actor Peter Sellers, for example, when over and over he called to his wife to ask her to bring him a cup of coffee, and either she couldn't hear or she wouldn't hear, and so in a few moments she was indeed startled to find a messenger at the front door with a telegram. "I'm in the den. Please bring coffee. Peter." You feminists, don't shoot me for telling that story, you have to admit it does illustrate what frustration is.
Now all of this sounds frivolous, I know, but it serves to point up that you and I at both surface and profound levels experience frustration. We face all kinds of situations, some of them inconsequential, sure, but many of them terribly important, in which what we feel, day after day, is frustration. There are so many things we know we want to do, but the barriers are up, the roadblocks are high, and we just can't get there from here. There may be a job you want to do, but you have a coworker or even a boss who just will not let you do it. They don't understand what you're after, they are dimwits who don't appreciate what you're trying to do, and you just can't get around them.
There may be a goal you're trying to reach professionally or in your education or in your family life, but nobody understands nobody sympathizes, nobody even seems to care. You need their help, you have to have their cooperation, but it never comes. Frustration. It's like trying to dance the proverbial tango; it takes, they say, two to tango (Baptist preachers are not certain about this subject, you know) – they say it takes two to tango, but you cannot find a partner, you cannot claim a soul-mate, nobody understands. Frustration.
Frustration when you want to do something, you must do it, it seems so right, but no one else sees it that way. And it gets worse yet when it's a matter of principle, when it's a matter of moral principle. You might even say, this thing I want to do, it's the will of God, it's what the Spirit of the Lord has led me to do. Now why can't the rest of you see that? Frustration.
There came a juncture in the life of the nation Israel when it was apparent there would have to be some sort of change in the structure of leadership. The prophet Samuel had ruled the people for many years, sometimes by showing them God's truth, sometimes bullying a little bit, sometimes just moving on sheer momentum; but rule he had. For many years they had trusted this prophet who had been called of God when he was but a child, but now Samuel was old. And Samuel's rule was no longer quite as effective as it had been, the creative edge was gone, and the people felt restless. Samuel, Samuel, you've been good for us, yes, we acknowledge that; but now that it's time for you to get on the rocking chair at the Old Prophet's Home, we'll tell you what we want. We want a King. We want a King. Just like Edom and Moab and just like the Amalekites and the Amorites, we want a king. We want to be like all the other nations, we're tired of being different, we're tired of this God says business. Give us a King.