Monday, August 2, 2010
Happy Birthday Husband!
Twenty-eight years ago, something marvelous happened. A little boy named Andrew Mark was born. Births are a great example of how ego-centric we can be. When babies are born, few mommies and daddies proclaim to the world, "God has a new child!" It's more like they hunker down and hold their little one close and say, look at what we have made. Maybe they'll get really spiritual for a moment or two and have their baby christened or dedicated. Then, they might, for a Sunday morning at least, proclaim to God and others that they're willing to let God have a role in their child's life. I'm being a bit tongue in cheek, of course. I know that many parents are very dedicated to introducing their children to the Lord, and I admire them for that effort. But I do think that the majority of parents that I know today have a hard time trusting God with their children's lives. Not to say that this is an easy thing to do, by any stretch of the imagination. And in no way am I saying that I'll be like a champ at this or something. That would be absurd. I have a hard enough time believing that my dogs really belong to the Lord.
Maybe that's why the story of a woman named Hannah has struck many a woman with admiration and fear. Hannah was married to Elkanah, a religious man who doted on her, despite the fact that she hadn't born him any children. This was a really big deal back in the day. Not that today's culture doesn't push its own "bear children or you are worth nothing" agenda from time to time, but in Hebrew culture, it was considered shameful to be barren. Hannah's greatest desire was to have a child. I know people who are in her same predicament. Their longing is not to be taken lightly- neither was Hannah's. So sick was her heart that she wept and refused to eat.
One day, Hannah went to the temple and poured out her broken heart to the Lord. I love the way that the Bible describes Hannah's posture before the Lord, "in bitterness of soul, she wept much and prayed to the Lord." (1 Samuel 1:10) As she was praying, Eli, the priest came in and saw her. Her prayer was in her heart, but her lips were moving, though no sound was coming out. There's a great picture of what fervent prayer could/should look like. Private. Full of emotion. Truthful. Painful, even. But very very real. How funny that Eli, a priest, who should have been an expert on prayer didn't even recognize Hannah's fervency. Instead of assuming that Hannah was unloading her burden on the Lord, He thought she'd been hitting the bottle all night. Hannah had to defend herself- she said, "I'm not drunk! I have been praying out of my great anguish and grief!" When she said this, Eli believed her, and he told her to go in peace. But before Eli had come in to where she was praying, Hannah had made a vow. She told the Lord that if He would give her a son, then she would give him to the Lord for all the days of his life. Big words from a woman who wants so badly to be a mommy- and sort of counterintuitive to the Western world, I should think. Why would you beg God for a son, just to give him away and never see him grow up? Seems harsh, doesn't it?
God didn't think so. He was pleased with Hannah's request. And after many years of heartbreak, God opened her womb and gave her a child- a son she named Samuel. Then Hannah does something that people with hardcore maternal instincts probably shudder at (I am not one of those maternal people, so I don't shudder, but I'm still mightily impressed) She keeps her promise. She hangs on to little Sam until he's able to eat solid food, then she marches him right back to the temple where she had begged God for this sweet gift. And she leaves him there. For the rest of his life.
Think about that for a minute. We live in a Facebook world where most mommies record their baby's every burp and dirty diaper and cute look for the world to see. Women dream, not only of having babies, but of raising children- of nurturing them throughout their lives- watching them become strong and smart and successful. I doubt Hannah wanted any less, and, if you keep reading her story, you find out that God gave her more children that she did get to cuddle and play with and watch grow up. But, what caught God's attention in the first place, was Hannah's insight into what was most important for her child. Hannah reasoned, that if God would be so gracious as to let her participate in bringing forth a child, then she would return him to the Lord, not because she had to, but because she knew that it was what was best for him. The child belonged to the Lord.
Don't you think it's funny that people don't really think that way? I do. I find it ironic and sad and very challenging. The reason Hannah's story is so remarkable is because none of us really want to go there with those who are precious to us. And that's why I'm writing about Hannah on a day that's dedicated to my sweet husband. Like Hannah, I prayed long and hard for someone- a husband who would love the Lord and love me. Everyday, I wake up next to the answer to that prayer. But it occurred to me this morning, that just like that day twenty-eight years ago, the day that he was born, Andy's life was not my plan, or his parents plan or even his own. Andy's life has always been a part of God's plan.
Romans 12 says that if our minds are transformed by God's Spirit, then we will be able to see that God's will is good, pleasing and perfect. Before cereal and coffee this morning, I thanked God that His will involved introducing me to a person named Andy Wermel. I can certainly see how that was good, pleasing, and, well, yeah, kind of perfect.
But it doesn't suit to cling too tight and claim a person as my own. True, Andy is my beloved. I have the privilege of loving him in a more complete way than any other person ever has or ever will. But, he isn't mine. And, like Hannah, I wouldn't want him to be.
I used to think that Hannah must have been really sad when she let her son go. Maybe she was. But had she not given him over to the Lord, things would have been very different for the people of Israel. Samuel grew up to be an amazing judge over the people of Israel, and, before he died, he anointed David as King. I have no doubt that if Hannah had not kept her vow, the Lord would have found someone else to judge the people and set the King's line, which would become Christ's lineage, into place. But she was faithful, and Hannah and Samuel both got to participate in God's good, pleasing, perfect will. I think that is the best thing that could ever happen to any of us.
So, sweet husband, happy birthday. I am so thankful that God brought you into this world, and that you have accepted His invitation to participate with Him in His will. I hope you hear His voice and follow Him, and love Him with all your heart and mind. Like Hannah, I say, "My heart rejoices in the Lord!" to know that you are His, all the days of your life.
I love you, Andy. Happy Birthday.