When I struggled with the inability to have children after the birth of our first son, the story of Hannah reached deep into me pulling me closer to God. Since then, Hannah has taught me about faith, marriage and motherhood. I honestly cannot say which part of her story is the most powerful – each part is priceless. That life choices of myself and others affecting my life does not have to permanently damage is one of those lessons.
Hannah nurtured something wonderful in Samuel, like seeds planted early. Imagine taking a three-year old to church and leaving him there! Go down to a church nursery, or to a day care. Look at the reaction of the children, how they cry their hearts out, how abandoned they sound. My children have sounded the same way. Even bedtime separation sounds devastating.
To walk out of church without that hand in yours, leaving your child permanently at church, not seeing your child for another year? Today’s sociologists and psychologists would expect feelings of resentment and abandonment to flourish in that child. Anger? Hate? Zero Confidence? Inability to make lasting commitments?
Here’s the amazing part of the story – Samuel was not tormented with harbored resentment and an abandonment complex. The following phrase is like a tight hug to my mother heart, ““But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was”(1Sam 7:17). When he grew to adulthood to serve the Lord as a prophet, after each mission he returned to the home of his mother. How many people do you know that have children who cannot wait to get away and find no refuge or peace in the home of their parents. Yet, this little boy, who at age three was taken to serve at the temple “always went back to Ramah, where his home was”(1Sam 7:17).
What made him want to return to the place of his childhood as an adult after each mission for God? What did he remember? Was it the warmth of a mother’s love? Or a father’s? Or the essence of home – like blankets, the smell of fresh baked bread dipped in honey, laughter? What kind of memories does a 3-year-old have that always turns his feet back to childhood’s home?
“Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice”(! Sam 1:10). For a while, I wondered whether he felt abandoned, or left behind. Did he cry for his mother? The love she must have stitched in that robe must have been a year-round hug, reminding him of his mother’s love.
Still, one day of hugs and a robe cannot make up for a year of lost love and affection. Why did Samuel not feel abandoned? Resentful? Lonely and rejected?
. . . . because he “ministered before the Lord”(1 Samuel 3:1) He went directly into the presence of the Lord in the temple. The Lord ministered to Samuel, filled Samuel up when Samuel’s love tank felt empty. The Lord knew that Samuel probably wanted his mother. It was the Lord who reached out and comforted Samuel during those years.
God’s love can fill the emptiness of an absent mother. God’s love can fill the emptiness of an absent father. Torn? Broken? Discarded?
We don’t have to be!
When we are before the Lord, we are filled with his love and his presence and his peace. How often have we been in the actual presence of God our Father? Through prayer we come into His presence, but how many of us spend as much time learning about God as we do talking to our best friend on the phone or watching our favorite television show? If you have not yet felt the love of the Father wash over you in your time with the Lord, so much so that you can understand some of what Samuel must have felt ministering in the temple so that he did not cry out for his mother or miss her, then go to your quiet place, cry out to the Lord, “Father, let me feel the love Samuel felt serving you in the temple. Satisfy me as you satisfied Samuel, Father. Let me know this great love. I don’t just want to say “My Father Loves ME”. I want to feel it in my marrow. I want that kind of relationship with you, Lord.” Pray as Hannah prayed so that the priest thought she was drunk, so completely did she pour out her heart in the presence of the Lord.
Samuel’s feet led him home, but probably only because He let God fill His heart – and that means He had to be still enough for God to fill him up!