By Karen Stiller
“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head’ ”(1 Samuel 1: 10-11, NIV).
I have a love/hate relationship with this Bible story. Hannah, as we all know, is the mother-to-be in the Old Testament who cries out her heart to God again and again, yearning for a child.
She makes one of those promises to God that most of us have done at one time or another: If you’ll do this for me, then I’ll definitely do that for You. Except Hannah’s bargain is much larger than the God-pledges I’ve made in the past, like promising to be on time more often, or kinder to my sister. Hannah pledges her long-awaited, prayed-for child in service to God, to be trained by Eli as a priest. And she keeps her word. It hurts me to even imagine it.
Hannah’s story is often used to exemplify perseverance in prayer. But as a mother of three, I take something else from this story.
The depth and duration of Hannah’s longing speaks to the immeasurable value of an individual child’s life. Hannah’s willingness to give the young Samuel up to be trained as a priest – and a powerful one he will end up becoming – does not mean she valued him any less. I think it shows that she valued him even more. There could be no greater show of trust or gratitude by this woman of God. No greater gift and measurement of the value she held in her son than her commitment of him to God’s work. And what wonders awaited in Samuel’s life! What amazing potential was locked up inside the young man she entrusted to Eli.
Samuel would grow to become a great man of God, the sensitive prophet who would be both anointer and confronter of kings, a hero of the faith listed in Hebrews 11. In this one young life, lay a future that would shape Israel itself. Imagine the potential that lies within every child, everywhere, every time. Samuel was a child who was immensely valued – inherently worthy of the protection given to him that every child should have.