Wednesday, July 9, 2014


This morning the Lord impressed on my heart to read 1 Samuel 1 and 2 again.  I have read it many times, treating it as my testimony and my hope and viewing the life of Hannah as I view my own.  Many people are familiar with the unexplained infertility that I and my husband are experiencing right now.  I have told my story briefly on this blog but have kept quiet about the journey from wanting a child so badly to taking fertility treatments to accepting fostering/potentially adopting a child as possibly the only way to expand our family.  I have accepted some things about my body, as bravely as I could, but deep down (like this morning), I felt the Lord spurring more conversation in this area.

Sometimes, He stirs the questions in our souls.  We try to be brave and ignore the fact that we still have questions mixed with our faith.  We don't ask anything for fear that the foundation will crumble.  We don't vocalize the questions, but God will point us toward the asking because He wants to answer.

What I mean is this:  the best teachers in our lives are the ones that want us to ask questions and not just accept the pat answers.  And God is the very best teacher.  He is not afraid of our questions as much as we are afraid to ask the questions.

So...I am reading the first chapter and I am reading about Hannah's desire to be a mother.  In verse 11 of chapter 1, she prays a simple yet deeply profound prayer:  "O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your handmaid and [earnestly] remember, and not forget Your handmaid but will give me a son, I will give him to the Lord all his life; no razor shall touch his head."

Her words:  "I will give him to the Lord all his life..."

These are the words that cause the questions to bubble up like water in a geyser.

Why would she pray this?

Why would she make a vow to give up the very person she was crying out for?

How could an infertile woman give up the son of her prayers to God after not being able to have children?  She didn't spiritually give up her son (as in a spiritual act of commitment); she physically gave him up.  She left him in the Temple with a man that couldn't even spiritually guide his own children in the things of the Lord.  In fact, she left her precious son in the care of a priest that couldn't even discern the place she was in spiritually at the most crucial time in her life.  AND THAT WAS HIS JOB.

She didn't know if she would ever have another child, but she made the vow and kept it anyway.  She didn't know that she would birth five more children later (that she would birth grace)?  Was it enough that God had answered her prayer and given her a son she would ultimately give back to Him?  Was it enough to know she was a mother, even though her son had to go on to fulfill a vow she had made?  Was that simply enough?

Before, when I read these chapters, this seemed like such a beautiful story of  answered prayer, vows, and repayment of those vows.  But the Lord impressed on my heart this morning that it is not so easy to read and comprehend.  The vow she made was not so simple.  She indeed gave up her son for His good intentions.  Yes it was an honorable move and her obedience was blessed as a result.  But Hannah gave up Samuel.  She gave him back to the Lord with a praise and a declaration of who God was and is on her lips.  She gave up the very thing she had prayed for: to be a mother.

We never really know how things will work out. We never know if there will be another to replace what we sacrifice (what we give up).  Hannah didn't loan Samuel to God; she never came back to get him.  She said that he would live there for as long as there was breath in his body.  He would remain there for God's use.  His father didn't override her vow to the Lord and refuse to leave him there.  He agreed to keep this vow too.

I have been guilty of only reading about how God gave her a son after she prayed and received a word of confirmation from the priest.  But the story didn't end there; in fact, that is the very place where the story began.

And what does this mean for me today, as an infertile woman?  I could easily say I should pray Hannah's prayer and see what will happen.  But I do not think that is what the Lord would have me to do.  There is more within this woman's story for me.

Hannah was at peace with birthing a child to give back to God.  This was her prayer and motivation.  And at the end of the matter, she was able to know God in a much more personal way.  Chapter 2, verses 1 - 10 proves this.  Would she have known God in this way if the sacrifice had not been made?  Would she be able to declare His beauty and His attributes and His actions if she had not made a vow and He met her at the place of her vow?

Hannah was without child when she left Samuel at the Temple at age 4.  She was not able to mother her child.  So what was the difference between the Hannah that was barren and the Hannah that left her child to grow up without her?  Her vow and her sacrifice had drawn God closer to her.  She was no longer afflicted, though in both instances she was childless.  The Hannah in despair was not able to see God as holy, as a Rock, as a God of knowledge.  She was not able to declare that "the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces" because she saw herself as a woman broken in pieces, as if the Lord had made her his enemy or his adversary.

But after the vow and the sacrifice, Hannah was able to see God from a different viewpoint.  Leaving her son at Shiloh after she had prayed for his arrival made no sense to anyone else; it would make no sense today.  And yet, her relationship with God was deepened because of what she had so freely given up.  She hadn't just given up her child; she had given up her right to mother him - not knowing if another child would come. 

And the reality for me is that God met her there, at the place of revelation, where she was able to see Him as more than the One that could answer her prayer.  He was the One that could honor her sacrifice.  He was the One that would reveal His power and His presence to her in a way that she was not able to see before because she was blinded by her barrenness.

And now what she did makes sense.

It makes sense, even though there are tears falling down my face right now.

It all makes sense, even though I wonder what my testimony and my song will be after all this.

It makes sense because God met her at the place where she kept her vow to Him - to give her child back to Him.  If no one else appreciated the sacrifice, God certainly did.  He understood better than anyone.  And He met her there - so much so that her words changed, her song changed, and her perspective was forever changed.

Hannah knew God better after she freely gave up what she had prayed for than when she actually prayed for that child in the beginning.  He honored her request to give her a child, but when the vow was kept, she was fulfilled in the intimate knowledge of His Presence.  Her child was fulfilled in the intimate knowledge of His Presence.

And for me...that is more important than anything - despite the pain that I go through right now.  I'm not saying that when you go through difficult places like infertility you automatically have a closer relationship with God - as if you give up one desire for another.  But what I am saying is what if God sees your sacrifice and the hurt and the tears with the intent to bless you through the sacrifices?  What if your ability to draw closer to God is heightened when you see Him as more important than the prayers that you pray or the answers that you seek?

What if that is the moral of Hannah's story?