I have a big mouth. I know that. I’m pretty okay with it, because I’m usually pretty good and knowing when to keep it zipped and when to let it rip. But I think I need to learn how to zip it when I pray. No, now that’s not true. I know that I need to keep it open with the big guy upstairs, and when I ask for something, I need to be prepared to deal with the consequences of just how He’s going to answer. Case in point: I learned a looong time ago not to pray for patience. Waiting sucks.
So you ask, what dear friend have you let your mouth run about this time? Well I’ve been praying for God to use me. To take my story and let it be a help to others, so that when looking at me, they can look through me to see Him. Sounds easy right? I mean, for crying out loud I wrote a whole book about it and am going through all the steps to get it on the shelf, right? Yes I am. And usually I’m pretty okay with it. I mean I’ve grown quite a bit and I think I’ve been handling things pretty nicely here lately. I didn’t even cry when I heard about a new baby yesterday. Now that’s progress!
Okay, so not only did I pray that He would use me, but I’ve been missing my old bible study something fierce and have even talked about starting my own. Then I made a new friend and was invited to hers. I had planned to go last week and had to go to a meeting instead (The irony of which being that it was the parent meeting for the sex-ed class that we present this fall. Yours truly teaches the condom demonstration. Do I want kids to be sexually active. Heck no. Do I know that quite a few of them have a crappy life, with crappy parenting and will have sex regardless? Yep I do. So do I ignore it because I don’t like it, or do I try and give them the tools to keep safe? You got it, I try and give them the tools. Alright, enough of my little rant and back to the purpose of this whole shebang). So I promised to go this week and my dear new friend just brought me the study questions. Guess what we’re studying? Hannah. Do you know the story of Hannah? I’ll give you the down and dirty (you can also check it out by reading 1 Samuel).
Hannah, bless her, is a girl after my own heart. She was married to a man named Elkanah who loved her very much. So much so that when it came time to do the sacrifices, he would give a portion to his other wife, Peninnah and her children, but would save the best for Hannah. Now I’m not going to go into the whole plural marriage thing. There is a reason God made us monogamous (and why on His green earth did man suddenly decide having more than one wife was a good idea, I’ll never know. But I can imagine God wasn’t terribly happy with the whole idea), and you can see one of those in the relationship between Peinnah and Hannah. Especially wretched was their rivalry because while Peni had lots of munchins, Hannah had none. It would get so bad, that Hannah was reduced to tears and would refuse to eat. Now let me say, I’ve never been one to miss a meal, but I may have had (or still have) extra chocolate at times. Now, as sweet as good ‘ole Elkanah was, he still didn’t get it when my sweet sister had a little meltdown over her closed womb. He even went so far as to ask her “Why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”. Oh, poor sweet Hannah, and poor thick-headed Elki. See, even in the 21st century there is a huge social stain on a woman without children. But back then, a woman who had only girls was a disgrace, let alone one who had no children to call her own. Just imagine the pain she would have felt watching him play with his children through Peni. And can’t you just see the smug smile on Peni’s face when she welcomes him to her tent at night, and then announces another birth to come. Hannah was a social paria. Even if Elki loved her more.
So the day came when they made another trip to the temple, and Hannah, having watched Elki sacrifice his meat for Peni and her brood, and offer some for her, was at her whit’s end. After eating her fill, she got up and “In bitterness of soul” wept and prayed to the Lord, begging him for a son and vowing that if he gave her one she would in turn dedicate him back to God. She Hannah’s in a corner (nobody put’s baby in a corner! Ahem, sorry, I digress) and she’s praying so fervently that her lips are moving but no sound comes out. Seeing this, Eli the priest thinks she’s drunk (apparently a lot of people went to the temple drunk back then) and admonishes her. But Hannah sets him right, saying that she’s not all liquored up as he thinks, but was “pouring out my soul to the Lord…out of great anguish and grief.” So Eli in turn tells her to go in peace and that he hopes God answers her prayers. After they finish their worshiping, the family heads home, Hannah and Elki do what married people do and “the Lord remembered her”, and Hannah gets pregnant with her son, Samuel. Now Samuel is a name near and dear to me. It was my grandpa’s name, which was passed on to my brother and from him to his son, and it is the middle name we gave our son when we finalize our adoption. In addition to the family sentiment, Hannah said she named her son this “Because I asked the Lord for him”.
Alright, there’s a little down and dirty history on Hannah. Now here’s the deal, Hannah had rather a rough go of things, and I’ve been known to get a little bitter (as I think she did). In so many ways I feel that Hannah’s story parallels my life. Her hubby loved her dearly, as does mine (though he doesn’t say the bonehead things that Elki did). And God closed her womb. Why does the bible say that? In all the stories about infertility, God always closes her womb and she is the one in disgrace. It never has anything to do with the man, it’s always the woman’s fault. Sheesh. Throw a girl a bone. Hannah also shows her anger, frustration, and pain in a public place. Well gee, I wrote a book and I’ve been known to melt down in public (especially at bible studies, and what do I do this week? start a new bible study, with Hannah as it’s topic). She is seen as a social pariah. I’ve had that look cast my way as well.
So this study has some questions that we’re supposed to answer. Question number 2 asks how I’ve reacted to disappointments or failures in my life. Well let me tell ya sister, not being able to get knocked up is more than just a “disappointment” and how dare you call it a failure. It’s not like a didn’t study for a test and brought home an F. Have a little heart for your girls, ladies. Question 3: what impact did it have on those around you? Yikes. That one varies. Because I just can’t look beyond Hannah’s story and my own and think of other trials in my life. It just hits to close to home. Question 4: Hannah poured out her pain in public, and Eli had a less than stellar reaction (I may be paraphrasing) Was Hannah aware of other’s reactions, did she care? Yeah, Hannah was aware. She’d been dealing with that big scarlet “I” for awhile know. And no, she was beyond caring. This was more than a public issue, this was between her and her God. Down to the grit. Question 5: (Hannah did find peace after talking with Eli) what caused her change? Did she know she’d get knocked up? Why was she comforted? I dunno. Maybe she heard His voice. Maybe He did to her as He did to me and told her to be still (check out this entry Be Still to see a little more on that). Question 6: When has God answered or not answered? How did he provide? etc, etc.
See why this is a rough one for me? I feel like I should just print off the whole blog and bring a copy of my manuscript and say “Here ya go. Answers to all questions and a little insight into how Hannah felt.” Oye vey. I’m emotionally exhausted already. The thing is that I think I know most of the ladies there, but I don’t know them well enough to become an emotional fountain. Or maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s why God said “Well Marcy, you asked to be used. Now go make it happen.” But here’s the other problem. I don’t find comfort in these stories. I don’t find comfort in Hannah or Sarah. I relate to them. I understand their pain and my heart aches for the lives that they had (I mean I used Hannah as the name for my daughter in No Maybe to keep her anonymity, and Sarah is a special name in the book I’m writing now). But their stories don’t bring me peace. Why, you ask? Well simple: God closed their womb, they suffered greatly for it on multiple levels, but then He answered their prayer and they were pregnant and bore sons. He never answered that prayer for me. Or I guess He did, but His answer was no. And I’ll never truly get over or understand that.
So what’s a girl to do? Well crap. I just don’t know. My beloved told me I don’t have to go to the bible study (as did my friend when I texted her with a heads up that this was going to be a rough one for me). But I don’t think that’s right. And I don’t want to end up in the belly of a whale like another character who didn’t do as God asked. I mean, this is a bible study, not Ninevah, right? So I’m going. I’m not filling out an answer to the questions because I have too much to say. And I’ve got to big of a mouth and am maybe a bit to feisty to sit there quietly as the discussion of Hannah pours out around me. So my goal is to go. To be used, and to not be bitter, because I’m easily swayed that way with these examples. So I’m gonna ask again. If you’ve got a couple spare prayers hanging around, send ’em on over my way. God rewarded Hannah for her faithfulness, now it’s my turn to be faithful. Yikes. I’m terrified.