This blog post is part of a series that I began for telling our story. You can read the first post here.
I spent a lot of time in prayer over the course of my pregnancy with Samantha. I had to – I was so terrified! After losing Jonah (more on that in a future post), I didn’t know how to trust that this pregnancy wouldn’t end the same way.
One of the stories I returned to again and again was the story of Hannah from the Old Testament. If you aren’t familiar with her (or just need a refresher), she was an Israelite from the tribe of Ephraim, the wife of a man named Elkanah. She was one of two wives that he had (back when this was commonplace, especially for those of higher status). Hannah was barren (as scripture puts it, “the Lord had closed her womb.” Her “rival,” the other wife, had many children, but Elkanah loved Hannah and would attempt to make the situation better for her. But in a time when having children was just about the only value a woman could bring to a household, how could anything quiet this misery?
Side note: I’m grateful that God has given me peace with my childless status now. I can’t imagine living each moment feeling the pain that Hannah and so many women experience.
Once a year, this family would go to the temple, and Hannah would say her prayers, fervently asking for a child. She prayed so hard, so intensely, that the high priest thought she was drunk! She shared her troubles with him, and he offered her a blessing, asking God to grant her request. And he did. Before the next time of prayer came, Hannah had given birth to a boy that she named Samuel, which means “heard by God.”
What happens next is so incredible. Hannah nurses her baby boy, and once he is weaned, she brings him to the temple to stay, and gives him to God! I don’t know if she decided to do this when she was pregnant, or after he was born, or perhaps sometime between birth and weaning him. But she set aside her needs of having and holding her son in order to dedicate his life to the Lord.
It seems unreal to think about a mother doing that. Like she abandoned him. I’m guessing it was a bit more commonplace back then to do such a thing. I also know that there are many places in our world where mothers have to make the terrible choice of sending their children to orphanages because they can’t afford to feed them. Everything about this sounds so backwards. But God did some amazing things in that boy, Samuel. Two books of the Old Testament are named for him. He is hugely part of the history of God’s people, including being the one who anoints their first king.
For me, this tale of a mother receiving a child and then letting go of that child, that part resonates with me. It’s not about giving her up, or God “taking” her from me. No. It’s about the gift she was in the first place. I might not have held her on this earth for as long as I would have liked, but I got to be her mother, and that is everything.
Next post coming tomorrow.