It’s an age-old dilemma, seeking a glimpse of the forest whilst the trees, the brambles, the scrub brush, smack us in the face. It’s rare to capture the long view in sharp focus, to perceive depth of field. How easily we can become bogged down in the cares and concerns of the day. I know that I do.
Over the past few months our grandboys have often reminded me of treasures, long forgotten, in raising babies. How sweet he smells, freshly bathed. How tightly his small hand grasps my finger; how quickly he captures my heart. He tells stories of his adventures, his smile brightening my day like a burst of sunshine. I dimly recall this was a lot of work, this business of raising babies. Back in the day, it consumed me. As a GiGi I know how precious, how fleeting, his babyness will be.
Already, Ollie eats solids and has garnered a young lady baby’s attention. He is irresistible! This weekend, Henry found his hands. He is fascinated to observe them — at perfect distance, a baby arm’s length. He is adorable! So much sweetness; sometimes I find myself holding my breath, sustaining the moment just a fraction longer.
Dark circles under his mama’s eyes speak to weariness. “How long does this sleepless season last?” she might well ask. Not long, darling; not long at all. In just a flash he will be off to kindergarten. A breath or two and he will graduate high school, set out for college. A blink and he’ll be married and starting a family of his own. Indeed, sweetie, not long at all.
Hannah was the rare mama with a long view; 1 Samuel tells her story. Cruelly taunted for her barrenness, she was haunted by what might never be. Desperate to conceive, she pledged her firstborn to the service of the Lord. She prayed so fervently in the temple, old Eli thought she was drunk! The priest added his blessing to her heartfelt prayer and she did, indeed, bear a son.
No matter the fussiness, the messiness, the sleeplessness, she must have treasured every waking moment with her babe. She knew more than most new mamas how short this season. She kept Samuel only until he was weaned. She dedicated him to the Lord as a Nazirite and left him to learn the ways of the temple.
Such hardship for a mama, restricted to an annual trek to the temple, a new coat in hand for her boy. Tales of the wayward priest, Eli, and his wicked sons were common throughout the land. The temple had become a bad joke. Surely Samuel would be better under her own care? It’s a wonder she didn’t scoop the lad up and run home.
I can imagine wanting a child so badly that I’d make such a bargain with God. I cannot fathom, babe in arms, keeping my end of the deal. I am quite certain I’d have reneged, had I walked in Hannah’s sandals. She must have thought about it? But her trust, perhaps fear, of God prevailed.
God honored Hannah’s faith in many ways, including with five more children. Most remarkable, however, was her marvelous legacy in Samuel. He could have become every bit as bad as his host family, mired in dysfunction. He might have become angry if not despondent or depressed by his abandonment. Instead, he grew into a well balanced and honorable young man.
Samuel responded when God called his name and never looked back. He rose above distressing circumstances to right the wrongs of the priesthood and restore the integrity of the temple. He emerged healthy in mind, heart, and spirit, against the odds. He served the Lord all his days and through difficult times, becoming the final judge of Israel. What a testimony of faithfulness, all around.
In any season of life — raising babies, building a business or career, facing the inevitable decline into old age — we may become overwhelmed by immediate challenges, insufficient resources, unstable circumstances. So often the snarly undergrowth or a gnarly tree obstructs our view of what God will do with this mess. Oh, for a wholly trusting heart like Hannah. To have her faith for the long view, to keep the grand plan in sight. Then to have courage and strength to always do what is right.
~ René Morley