On Being Made Ready

     So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried — inconsolably. Then she made a vow:

      Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
      If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
      If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
      By giving me a son,
      I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
      I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.

1st Samuel begins with a grieving and depressed woman named Hannah.  She was beloved by her husband but had no children.  The Message Bible says: Her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children.  This went on year after year…Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.

I keep thinking about Hannah.

Birds are chirping their melodious song.  My youngest pretends to be mommy to her baby dolls.  This porch swing rocks easily to the rhythm of a faint summer breeze.

There really is nothing new under the sun.

Just how many years of taunting and depression did Hannah endure before she was ready?  Before she reached her breaking point?  Before her soul achieved critical mass and finally spilled over?

The family was on its yearly trip to worship and offer sacrifices to God.  Her husband wants to know why Hannah is crying, why she isn’t eating the sacrificial meal and why he alone is not enough to make her happy.  I imagine this is the routine between them.  Her barren womb and broken heart is a burden he must carry, as well.

I keep thinking about Hannah.

Somewhere inside the printed lines I read on page 347 she turns a corner.  She experiences just enough clarity to pull herself together…to see just how bad things had gotten…to briefly realize that emptiness has filled her life.  She slips away quietly.  Enters the sanctuary…this holy place of prayer…and unzips herself…comes apart at the seams…unleashes the bitter turmoil she has nursed for so many years.

When I read her prayer in the verses above I get the impression she is offended with God.  She accuses Him of neglecting her, of turning a blind eye to her pain.

I certainly don’t have the answers about how this works.  But I read the beginnings of 1st Samuel and see things that take the sides off my box of God-assumptions.

What if God was never blind to Hannah’s pain?  What if God was whisper-close every time rival wife spoke words that injured Hannah’s hope?  What if God patiently allowed the years it would take before Hannah was ready?

Ready to offer back to Him the thing she needed so badly?

I read Hannah and stop.  Deep inside I wonder what really is it that I need?

Perhaps the barren place is filled only as we give our need completely, unreservedly to God.  As we cease blindly grasping and hold tightly to His hand alone.  As we hand outcomes and results over to Creator. 

Hannah conceived Samuel and dedicated him to God.  He grew up in the temple and became God’s mouthpiece to Israel.

A set of parents who gave God their most beloved treasure.  A woman whose soul had gone so dry, whose life was so parched, only the rain of God’s provision and promise could restore her.

I’m thinking about Hannah.

The years were not wasted because they made her ready to be Samuel’s mother.

And still there is nothing new under the sun. 

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