Hannah and Her Sisters

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, 1 Samuel 1:1-20, Acts 1:1-14, Luke 20:9-19


The Book of Samuel begins with the story of his mother, Hannah. One of Elkanah’s two wives, she was distraught because she had not borne any children while his other wife had. Elkanah loved Hannah dearly. When she wept and would not eat, he asked, “Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Reading this passage, I could not help but think of several women friends who have no children, some by choice, some by circumstance, and some by disappointment. As a man, this is not my territory to map. As a friend, I hope to pass on some of what they’ve trusted me enough to share.

“How many children do you have?” seems to be a go-to question between women getting acquainted at work or in social settings in the way sports establishes common ground between many men. Usually it starts a conversation about something people love and have in common, but for some it is a complex, even painful, question. If you’ve lost a child, you may struggle for an appropriate answer. If you answer you have no children, especially if it’s not by choice, you need to brace yourself for the inevitable “I bet you’d make a great mother” or other well-meaning phrase which implies your hope for a fulfilling life ultimately relies on motherhood. Confidently stating motherhood isn’t part of your plan can unnerve people who consider it a sacred duty.

Hannah, through prayer and supplication, eventually has a child she dedicates to the service of the Lord. Many women won’t have, or want to have, the same outcome. While motherhood is a beautiful vocation, women are more than extensions of their children (or their husbands … even if he seems worth ten or more sons). A life without children, while it may contain a specific kind of grief, is not a consolation prize.

Children are a source of joy, but they are not the only source. Let us learn to see God fully at work in all lives and to value people for who they are, not who we think they need to be.

Comfort: Failing to meet people’s expectations is not failing to meet God.

Challenge: Remember that your dream is not everyone’s dream.

Prayer: Gracious and loving God, teach me compassion and empathy. Amen.

Discussion: How can we be more sensitive and inclusive about the topic of children?

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