“Mommy? Tell me the story again, please?” Sammy gazed up at his mommy as she stood over the fire cooking his supper. His big brown eyes twinkled in anticipation. Hannah tucked a stubborn curl behind her ear and smiled at her eager little son. He was the joy of her life! The truth be told, she loved telling the story almost as much as he liked to hear it. She pulled the pot a little further from the flame and wiped her hands on her apron.
Hannah bent down and kissed Sammy on the nose. “Sweetheart, I’ll never get our supper finished at this rate!” She took his hand and led him over to their favorite chair by the window. She lifted Sammy up onto her lap where they could both look out the window to see the little birds hopping around under the big shade tree.
As her son was momentarily distracted by the activity outside, she lovingly fingered his curly dark hair, and watched his big bright eyes and slightly upturned nose. “Oh God!" she prayed in her heart. "What have I done? I promised to give my son back to you to serve in the temple. But look at that priest, Eli! How can I entrust this precious boy to be raised by a man who has grown sons like his! Oh Lord! Wouldn't I do a better job of raising him myself? I can send him to the temple when he's grown up, can't I? Look at him! He soaks everything in around him. He's so inquisitive. Oh, why did I ever make such a promise?"
Hannah shook her head as she felt a tug at her sleeve.
“Mommy! You said you’d tell me the story!”
Hannah smiled down at him and tweaked his nose. “Of course, sweetie! Now, let’s see.” Sammy snuggled in to her arms and slid his hand comfortingly in the edge of her sleeve. “Once upon a time there was a lady who was very, very unhappy. She had a beautiful house to live in and a husband who loved her with all his heart. But she did not have the one thing she longed for most in this world – she didn’t have a child. She wanted a baby all her own. She wanted to make her husband proud and give him a son. But, year after year went by and still there was no baby."
“Mommy,” Sammy interrupted, “Was she sad? Did she cry?”
“Yes, Sammy. I’m sure she did cry.”
“Well, every year her husband would take her and the rest of the family to the temple to offer sacrifices to the Lord and to worship Him there. But, each year it became more and more difficult for this lady. Not only was she sad in her own heart, but also other people were being very unkind to her and saying mean things about her. Talking about it with her husband had not helped and she was getting desperate.”
Sammy put his hand on his mother’s arm. “Mommy, why are big people mean to each other? God says to love each other, right?”
Amazed again by the sensitivity of her little son Hannah answered, “Yes, Sammy. God wants us to love each other just like He loves us. But sometimes, big people forget to be nice to each other just like children do at times.
“So, one year as the family was at the temple, she managed to get away from everyone. She stood over to one side and began to pray. She cried like her heart was breaking and she begged of her God, ‘Have mercy on me! God, you see my desperate situation. I want a child so badly – not only for me but also for my husband’s sake! If you can hear my prayer, I beg you for a son. I promise that if you answer my prayer, I will give him back to You to serve the Lord the rest of his days here in this temple.’
“Not far away from where she was standing an old priest named Eli was sitting observing what was happening. He kept looking over at the woman who seemed to be talking to herself and carrying on. Eli became very upset with this woman, thinking she was drunk and was disrespecting God’s house.
Sammy’s hand came up to her face and called her attention. “Mommy, what does it mean to get drunk? I drink all the time and I don’t cry or talk to myself.” His eyes opened wide as he realized, “Hey, I do cry and talk to myself sometimes! Does that mean I got drunk?”
Hannah laughed. “You sure are full of questions today. People get drunk when they drink too much wine and they can act pretty silly sometimes. But that wasn’t this lady’s problem, was it?
“Anyway, Eli got slowly out of his chair. He was a very fat old man and his joints were achy. He shuffled over to the woman as fast as he could. Grabbing her arm, he swung her around. ‘Lady,’ he said. ‘How dare you stand here in God’s house drunk as you are and making a scene! Do you know what you are doing? Get out of here!’
“The woman looked wide-eyed at him through her tears. ‘Oh, no sir! You’ve misunderstood! I’m not drunk and I’ve not lost my mind! I was praying and in my desperation I’ve been crying out for God to hear me!’ She trembled as she tried to explain herself to the Man of God.
“Eli looked at her again, this time through eyes softened with understanding and compassion. ‘Woman, go in peace. Whatever it is that you have prayed for, rest assured that your God has heard you and He will answer your prayer.’
“With a much lighter heart, the lady returned to her home. And do you know what? Within a year God answered her prayer and blessed her and her husband with a son.” Hannah kissed Sammy on the head tenderly and smiled as she continued. “They called his name Samuel, and they were very, very happy that God heard and answered her prayer!”
Sammy shifted on his mother’s lap and looked thoughtfully into her face. “I love my story. I'm glad I'm an answer to prayer and made you happy!” He stopped for a minute and then continued, “But Mommy, when do I go live in the temple?”
Hannah’s breath caught in her throat. He’d never asked about this before. "Oh Lord," she cried in her heart, "this precious boy was a gift from you. You DO have plans for him far beyond what I can imagine. I can't bear the thought of sending him away. I need you to help me follow through. Help me trust that You will take care of Him. Help me not look at Eli, but rather to You. Give me peace, God, as I put my trust in You!"
Ignoring a tear that trickled slowly down her cheek, Hannah ran her fingers through Sammy's curly hair. “My sweetie, it won’t be much longer now. You’re getting to be such a big boy! You’re a great little helper to your mommy, so I know you’ll soon be able to help Eli, the priest, in the temple. You love God so much already. Even though you are small, God has BIG plans for you. When you move into the temple, Eli will teach you even more about God and will show you how you can serve Him.”
Hannah took both of Sammy’s hands in hers and looked lovingly into his eyes. “Sammy, I love you with all my heart. I will miss you when the time comes for you to go, but I know that God’s hand is on your life. I will come to visit you as often as I can. You be sure to listen carefully to what Eli teaches you and obey him always. And, Sammy, no matter where you are, know that I will be praying for you!” She kissed his nose once more as she said playfully, “And we know that God hears and answers our prayers, don’t we?”
Sammy smiled and wriggled off his mommy’s lap. “Can I go outside and chase the birdies now?”
Hannah chuckled and gave him a little tap as he ran off. “Don’t get dirty, Sammy! Supper’s almost ready!”
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Wahhhh!!!! Oh Donna, you brought the reality of Hannah's sacrifice home so vividly in this retelling. I'm all teary after reading it. Of course I knew it cost Hannah so much to give back to God the very precious child she'd prayed for, but you took it out of my head and into my heart! Well done! With love, Deb