The story of Hannah always amazes me. Her determination, her faith, and her trust inspire me. She was a woman who knew pain and she allowed herself to grieve. She wasn’t afraid to ask God for her hearts desire over and over and over. Can you just imagine her joy when she found out she was going to be a mother? Can you imagine how she savored every moment with Samuel, knowing that she didn’t have much time with him? Can you imagine the struggle she must have had when she brought him to the temple to be raised by Eli? I can only imagine how her heart must have broken that day. Maybe her prayer went something like this…
Oh Lord, my God,
You are God of all the universe. You have created all things. I am but a grain of sand yet
you have made me unique and I know I am special to you. I came to you not long ago
pouring out my soul. I felt defeated. I was broken, wanting desperately for you to bless me
with a son. I claimed your promise that you “heal the brokenhearted and bind up their
wounds (Psalm 147:3). I needed help, and I found it in You. You heard my cries and in
my weakness you became my strength. You wove a child within me, and blessed me with
a son. I will forever cherish the memories of his grubby little fingers that hold mine and
chubby arms that encircle my neck, forming the most precious of jewels. I pray
I never forget his smile that lights up my face and his voice that warms my heart with the
word “mama”. Oh Lord, I am so in love with my boy; I am so very blessed. I have done
my best trying to instill his every thought to be of you. I know that my influence as a
mother greatly prepares him for eternal life and I pray that through your grace I have
been faithful with the gift you have given me. Thank you for the years that I have had
with my son, with our son. And now, as I stand here before you, I give him back to you. I
surrender him to you.
In her love, Hannah surrendered her son to Jesus.
Would I, as a mother, be able to do what she did? To totally surrender my children to Jesus?
As a mother I find myself struggling over two issues.
The first being that I am fooled into believing that I have control over the lives of my precious babes; that I have control in writing them a story free from pain and sorrow; a story filled only with rainbows and butterflies. Ultimately it’s about control and realizing that I don’t have it. And realizing even more that if I did, the story that I would have written for my children could never compare to the story that God is writing.
Which leads to my second struggle… A struggle in surrendering them over to Jesus, knowing full well, that when Jesus is the author, there is often a ‘valley of the shadow’ involved.
The reality is, we live in a sinful world and when we try and write our own stories, they are filled with sadness and suffering. Filled with consequences and hard lessons. Filled with despair. Because a story without Jesus is a story without hope. But when we surrender and allow Him to write our stories, it is in this ‘valley of the shadow’ where we find the greatest gift. We learn that we need Jesus. It’s where we learn that we not only can’t breathe without Him, but we don’t want to. And why would I ever want to deprive my children of feeling this need for His Presence?
Right now I hate to see when my kids have only skinned their knee. I hate to see them hurting. I have watched my parents struggle in watching me battle cancer this past year. I truly believe that they have been hurting more than if they could have just taken it themselves. They have voiced over and over their desire to take this from me. And I understand that kind of love. The love a parent has for their child. This love that doesn’t want to see their child hurting. And so if I did have control, I would probably write my children a story free from pain and heartache; a story that would end, “And they lived happily ever after…” A story in which I would protect them from evil and pain, from heartache and suffering. And yet, what if in this protecting, I am actually denying them the Presence of Jesus?
I am learning, that it has been in this place of grief, where I have found my need for Jesus. And I want my children to find that need and fill it with Jesus too. Even in the hard, it is a place of unimaginable safety; it is a place of holiness. Before I lost my brother, my life was almost perfect. And while I loved Jesus and had a relationship with Him, I didn’t NEED Him. And in that place of ‘almost perfect’ I had only an adequate relationship with Jesus because I didn’t need anything more than that from Him. It is in the sorrow where we run into His arms and press into Him and find that He will carry us through. Even though our life may feel like it is falling apart, He will not let us fall. Because we are in His arms. And that is the safest and most sacred place we could ever be.
We don’t need to fear the hard in life or our sorrow. “Lament is the path that takes us to the place where we discover that there is no complete answer to pain and suffering, only Presence. The language of lament gives a meaningful form to our grief by providing a vocabulary for our suffering and then offering it to God as worship. Our questions and complaints will never find individual answers… The only Answer is the dangerous, disturbing, comforting Presence, which is the true answer to all of our questions and hopes.” (Michael Card in The Sacred Sorrow p.129.)
In spending time in the Bible we are able to see stories from beginning to end. Through the story of Joseph we are able to see the holy hand of God working in His own way and in His timing. Joseph kept his eyes on Jesus and continued to trust Him throughout the good times and the hard and was then able to forgive his brothers and say “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Yes, bad things happen, life can be hard… but God can do all things. The “but God…” brings hope. The “but God…” changes everything. We get to read about Daniel being thrown into the lions den because of His faithfulness, and then get to see how his story ends in good. The stories we read in the Bible show us that “God works all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28). God gave us these stories so we could see that He is limitless and beyond our understanding and just when we think the story is over, Jesus overcomes.
Over and over we read about people surrendering their pens to Jesus and allowing Him to write their stories. We too need to surrender our pens to Him, even, no especially, the pens of our babes. Right now, in our own life, we are only able to see the beginning and the middle of our stories. We have no idea how our story will end. Or do we?
If we look to the Bible and the stories God has given us, He shows us that if we surrender our pen and allow Him to write our story, that it will not be a story free from pain and heartache, but that it will a story that is holy and a story that will end in good. With the ending of every story, Jesus overcomes. It is important to teach our children that even though satan intends for grief to harm us, God has a purpose in allowing our suffering and that every story that He writes will always end in good, we just might not see it yet. Regardless of the ending we see here on earth, if we allow Jesus to write it, He will overcome.
Right now I’m knee-deep in tears over skinned knees and broken toys, but one day soon it may very well be over a broken heart through divorce, or to a diagnosis of cancer, or to watch my child lose a child of their own. I’m afraid this would break my heart. Do I have enough trust in their Father, in my Father, that He will end their story in good? Instead of being afraid to admit how little control I truly have in the lives of my innocent little ones, shouldn’t I be grateful and hold onto the holiness in that?
Will I one day get to the place where I’m able to find thankfulness when my children go through seasons of hard? Will I one day be able to put aside my blurry view of sadness and actually want this path of hard for my children? It’s one thing for me to go through it, and entirely a different one when it’s one of my children. No parent wants to see their child hurting. We don’t want to see them in pain because we love them. But what we need to realize is that the love between our heavenly Father and us, His children, is so much more; it’s beyond our understanding. I can’t even wrap my mind around the love He has for each of us. He doesn’t want to see us hurting either. But He allows it so that in the hard and through the sadness, we will acknowledge our need and find Him.
This wrestle over wanting my children to ‘walk through the valley’ has made me see Jesus in a whole new way. I am certain He hurts with us, but He knows that this is the path we need to walk in order to find His presence and to find our need for it. And what parent wouldn’t want for their children to find this need for Jesus for themselves? The Bible says, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23). I can not, I must not, I will not fear it for myself or for my children. Because He is with us. And even though it may be a daily struggle, I must trust and rely in Him. I must believe that He will overcome.
He knows the ending of our children’s stories. And if we trust that He is good, we do to… Because in the ending of every sacred story God has every written and is writing, Jesus overcomes. As parents, we must believe that and like Hannah, entrust our children to Him.