Q & A: Was the Proverbs 31 Woman a Career Woman?

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proverbs 31 picAfter I wrote this post, many of you commented asking about the Proverbs 31 woman. So, is there an implied endorsement in Proverbs 31 for a young mother’s pursuit of a full-time career outside the home?

Here’s the passage:

    An excellent wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her,

and he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good, and not harm,

all the days of her life.

She seeks wool and flax,

and works with willing hands.

She is like the ships of the merchant;

she brings her food from afar.

She rises while it is yet night

and provides food for her household

and portions for her maidens.

She considers a field and buys it;

with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She dresses herself with strength

and makes her arms strong.

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.

She puts her hands to the distaff,

and her hands hold the spindle.

She opens her hand to the poor

and reaches out her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of snow for her household,

for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

She makes bed coverings for herself;

her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates

when he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them;

she delivers sashes to the merchant.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,

and she laughs at the time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She looks well to the ways of her household

and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;

her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many women have done excellently,

but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands,

and let her works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:10-31)

First, it’s interesting that this example so often used comes from a passage in the Old Testament. I love the book of Proverbs, and certainly every Old Testament book contains principles that show us the heart of God. It does seem that, if the Proverbs 31 mother was a full-time career woman and if God was exalting that choice of a full-time career outside of the home, we would find some exaltation of that choice somewhere in the New Testament. It is important to note that the Proverbs were never intended to legislate, even in the Mosaic age in which they were written. On the other hand, our clear passage, Titus 2:3-5, in the New Testament is classified by the Holy Spirit Himself as sound doctrine and is to be heeded so that the Word of God will not be blasphemed. It is sandwiched between the phrases “sound doctrine,” “teach,” and “that the Word of God be not blasphemed.” It is clearly legislation and it is clearly for our dispensation, the Christian age. We must find application of all of the characteristics of Titus 2:3-5 in our lives today.

Second, this woman did buy a piece of land, she had some merchandise that was good, and she delivered girdles that she made to the merchants. She did something productive to add to the family income. With that we cannot argue. I know many women who are able to do just that even as they raise their children in the home. Everything from Etsy shops to making clothing and selling to balancing the books for their husbands’ businesses from their desks at home, to keeping children in the home, etc., all while remaining keepers of the home. To take the fact that the Proverbs 31 woman did some buying and selling and morph her into a career woman, even as the context of the Proverbs 31 woman description is overwhelmingly given to her home management, is taking liberties with that text. To call her a full-time career woman is saying something that the passage doesn’t say.

Third, the New Testament admonition is still there in Titus 2:3-5. That word “homemaker” still means “keeper of the home, mistress of the house, housekeeper, stay-at-home, a domestic” (Liddell-Scott-Jones). Thus, whatever I am, I must be that first. It is absolutely possible, even probable, that many women may be able to do something to boost the family income in or outside the home and still be primarily a keeper at home. But it is very difficult to see how a woman can work full-time, put her children in full-time daycare, be absent from them during the vast majority of their waking hours and still be primarily a keeper at home, a worker at home, a domestic, a stay-at-home, etc.. The Proverbs 31 woman was a domestic. That is clear from the context. She sewed, she gave honor to her husband, she gardened, and good home management is all over that text. But we simply do not have enough in that text to take her outside the home and make her a woman devoted to an outside career. It is just not there.

Again, let me emphasize that I know many Godly women who do something on the side to supplement the family income. I’m thinking of women like my friend Beth, who monograms clothes, towels, and handbags in her spare time, or my friend Alissa, who offers occasional tutoring for homeschooled students, or my friend Jennifer, who runs her own Etsy shop selling cool homemade crafts, or my friend Emily, who keeps a few other children in her home in addition to her own on some days. All of these women are keepers at home, homemakers, domestics, etc., but can still be financially productive on some scale, just as was the Proverbs 31 woman.

Thanks for the comments and the question. Have a great rest of the week!



You Might Be A Liar If…

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growingnose One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are dishonest. This includes “white” lies, half-truths, and a little “innocent” exaggeration. I love, however, people who always “shoot straight,” even if it’s not the most convenient or the most exciting.

How does God feel about lying? If you grew up in the Church, you’re all probably singing in your heads the one verse you have memorized about lying (Revelation 21:8). Liars go to hell. I didn’t say it…God said it.

 But you knew that.

In fact, you’re probably pretty bored reading this so far because no one thinks of himself as a liar.  We all know lying is bad, Hannah, just like we know stealing and murder is wrong.

 But what if I told you I know you’re a liar?

You there! Reading this article right now. You’re a liar.

Or at least you have been at some point in your life. And I’m not just talking about the time you ate cookies before dinner and lied about it when you were 5. I mean in your adult life.

Gasp! How dare you?! You don’t even KNOW me, you crazy amateur blogger person!

 You’re right, I could be totally off. But here’s why I think that:

I recently read the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.  Since it’s only 11 verses long, I’ll include it here:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Until recently, I’ve always thought of Ananias and Sapphira as terrible, wicked people who deserved what they got. How dare they lie about how much money they were giving to the Lord! But lately, I’ve been thinking more about this story, and I’ve realized that they probably weren’t bad people. In fact, they were probably very admired in the community and in the church. They made a mistake. They sinned. Just like we all do. And they were struck dead immediately as an example of how God feels about dishonesty driven by greed (or by anything else, for that matter).

But why?! They were giving money to God when they could have kept all of it! Doesn’t that count for something?!

That’s not the point. It wasn’t about the money. It was about the lie.

Why in the world would they lie about that, anyway?

I can’t get in their brains or anything, but I’m sure they wanted to feel the glow of all the admiring glances and words of praise from the apostles and from all who heard of their godly generosity. They decided to do something good with part of the money they had earned. If it had stopped there, everything would have been fine. But it didn’t stop there of course. I can imagine the conversation that went down that day, or possibly in bed the night before.

 “Hey honey…you know that money we’re gonna take to the apostles tomorrow?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Let’s not say anything about how much of the money we’re giving…but if they ask, let’s say we’re giving all of it. I don’t want anyone to think we’re being greedy or anything. I mean, we need that money. We know that. But everybody else—they don’t know that…”

I think we’re all guilty of this. Ananias and Sapphira were liars. Even if that was the only lie they ever told, they were liars, and that condemned them. Here are some ways we can sometimes be like them:

You might be a liar if…

  • You go to church every time the doors are open, but that’s your only time with God during the whole week.
  • You make sure everyone sees you dropping your contribution in the collection plate, when you know that particular portion of your budget is the last priority.
  • You teach a children’s Bible class at church, allowing them to believe you actually study your own Bible at home, rather than just scanning the lesson in the 2nd grade curriculum Saturday night before teaching on Sunday.
  • You go on a mission trip and love to talk about how evangelistic you are, when in reality, that 2-week trip when you passed out fliers and sat in on Bible studies was the extent of all the soul-winning you’ve ever tried to do.
  • You bow your head in congregational prayer while your mind ponders whether you want the pizza buffet at Pizza Hut or chips and queso at Moe’s for lunch.
  • You sing out “Bind us together” while you know good and well you have not done your part to make things right with Sister Jones. You’re singing “Purer in heart, Oh God, help me to be” while, if you were truly honest, you’d see the irony in that considering the raunchy entertainment choices you’ve made this month.
  • You lead beautiful public prayers, professing your love for Jehovah God, but deep down, you know that’s the only, or one of the only few prayers you’ve said this whole week.
  • You always speak up in adult Bible class about loving one another, respecting one another, and being kind even when it’s difficult, but you apply none of those rules to your marriage (the private moments of which no one else sees).
  • Maintaining a strict, Biblical moral code is very important to you, and you make sure everyone who knows you also knows where you stand on moral issues, but when it comes to your political vote, Biblical morality comes second to taxes and healthcare.
  • You tell your friends you couldn’t make it to worship services because you were under the weather, when in reality, you were just tired and didn’t want to put real pants on (as opposed to PJ pants or sweat pants –which, incidentally, are all I wear at home).

I’m sure you could add to this list. I’m not writing this to be unrighteously judgmental in any way. I’m writing it to retrospectively ask myself (and you, obviously) if we’re being completely and totally honest before God, or if our primary goal is to appear righteous before men. If my primary goal is to look holy, and my actual relationship with God is secondary, I’m no different than Ananias and Sapphira. I’m no different than the hypocrites of Matthew 6:5 who loved to stand and pray on the street corners so that everyone would see how religious they were. I’m no different than Diotrephes, who “loved to have the preeminence” (III John 1:9-10).

At the beginning of this article, I called you a liar. If you’ve never been guilty of being dishonest before God, I apologize for the accusation. I, however, have been guilty of doing that before, and sometimes I do it without even thinking about it.

Sometimes it’s easy to fool men into thinking you’re something you’re not. I have trust issues because of all the times people have deceived me willingly. But it’s not easy to fool God. In fact, it’s impossible.

Galatians 6:7-8 reads, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

Are you just giving part of yourself to God while pretending it’s your all? Don’t be a liar. Your sin will be found out 100% of the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Thirty Pieces of Silver

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It’s Easter weekend. Time for dyeing Easter eggs, sporting our pastels and sandals (if you live in the South, that is), and for those who aren’t particularly religious, it’s a time to make it a point to go to church with family.

For those of us who take our relationship with God seriously, Easter, like every Sunday when we participate in communion, is a somber time to remember the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf.

While reading the accounts of the last few days and agonizing death of my Lord, I’m still brought to tears. The fact that He was God and yet so human makes me feel so close to Him through all of the excruciating pain, fear, and anxiety He experienced. I’m always amazed at how eagerly and wholeheartedly the people begged for and rejoiced in His physical execution.  It’s kind of the same sensation I experience when I study history of the Holocaust and shudder at just how many scores of people believed a lie and passionately followed, blindly, as their leader dictated to obliterate millions of innocent human beings. How could they not see how heinous Hitler’s plan and execution of that plan was? Similarly, how could the Hebrew people of Jesus’ time not see the love and the miraculous wonders that surrounded the Son of God? Did they just choose to be blind to the obvious?

Much more than even that, I cannot comprehend how someone who remained physically close to the Savior throughout his ministry, following Him as a disciple, could betray Him. We can reasonably infer that Judas watched as Jesus performed hundreds of miracles. Raising the dead, healing the sick, feeding 5000 with next to nothing, and so much more. He listened during all those intimate times after long days of teaching and healing as Jesus talked about His Father and the place He was preparing in heaven for those who serve Him. He watched as Jesus walked on the water like it was solid ground.

Doubtless, Judas didn’t have to ever question if this man was truly the Messiah. He knew deep within his heart that he was in the very physical presence of the Son of God.

And yet, despite that solid assurance, he sold my Lord for 30 pieces of silver to people he knew would berate, abuse, humiliate, and slaughter Him—the Holy Lamb of God.

As I understand it (I hope Bible scholars will correct me), 30 pieces of silver is the equivalent of about $950 today. At that time, it would have been enough to purchase a small farm. It wasn’t going to give him significant riches or fame. It wasn’t going to give him a life free of labor. It wasn’t going to give him any clout as a great, revered figure.  What material desire could have been so important for Judas to betray the Son of God for $950? What kind of earthly trade, no matter how great, could compare to a life eternal with God? Was his trade worth it? Even for a moment, did Judas feel like it was worth it? He obviously thought it would be, as this was a premeditated agenda of selfishness and greed.

As ludicrous and gut wrenchingly shallow as that trade seems to you and I, many of us make similar trades that give Judas a run for his money.

Judas was willing to trade a relationship with God and a home in heaven for 30 pieces of silver.

What’s your 30 pieces of silver?

Is it materialism? Are you so concerned with climbing the corporate ladder, making a profit and planning your retirement that you don’t take the time to study and grow in your knowledge of God’s will for your life? Are you so focused on saving and hoarding what you earn that you don’t share what you have with those in need or to help the church in her works?

Is it pleasure? Are you giving in to Satan’s ploys to temporarily indulge your appetite for sexual fulfillment? Are you trading a relationship with God for a few minutes of pleasure here and there engaging in sexual activity that you think no one knows about? Maybe even when you’re completely alone in the privacy of your home? Maybe it’s an addiction you’re dealing with, whether it be pornography or sex outside of a God approved marriage. Is feeding that addiction rather than repenting and seeking help more important to you than a home in heaven?

Is it peer pressure? Are you so concerned with being “politically correct” that you’re willing to defend and embrace the sins of others in the name of “tolerance”? Are you so worried about being accepted by a majority that you’re willing to trade an eternity with God for a few short years of popularity and comfort on earth?

Maybe your 30 pieces of silver is entertainment. Maybe you’re so obsessed with the nation’s top movies, shows, and books that you don’t really care if they’re filled with profanity, promiscuity, lasciviousness, and glorified worldliness. Maybe you choose to block out whatever your conscience, or Christians concerned for your soul, as the case may be, say about the dangers of numbing your heart and mind to the media’s infatuation with sin. Maybe you tell yourself it doesn’t affect you. Even if your entertainment choices are pure and wholesome, are you spending more time invested in entertainment (movies, books, TV shows, music) than you invest in Bible study, prayer, and the church? Is it more important that you make it to that ball game or that vacation destination than it is to be present for the services of the Lord’s church? Is it more important to catch up on your favorite show than it is to catch up on your Bible study? Is spending time just hanging out with your friends more important to you than teaching them how to get to heaven?

Perhaps you’ve fallen into society’s mold of obsession over self. Perhaps your quest for culture’s definition of happiness, beauty, and comfort is your 30 pieces of silver. Perhaps you’d rather focus your attention on making yourself feel good that you’re just simply apathetic about Jesus. Christianity is just something you do, rather than being who you are.

Whatever your 30 pieces of silver is, you will one day look back on this short moment of an earthy life and ask yourself as you stand alone in the presence of God to hear him declare your eternal fate, was it worth it?

Judas realized moments after he heard the sound of those coins dropping in his greedy, bloodstained hands that no amount of earthly gain was worth betraying the Son of God, but it was too late. The deed was done.

Will we recognize the horror of our wicked trade before it’s too late? Or will we have to stand before God, just like Judas, and admit that we were willing to trade everything Christ died to give us for our 30 pieces of silver?

Hebrews 6:4-6 says “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the holy spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt.”

I am Judas every time I sin. It’s my greedy, bloodstained hands that crucify afresh the Son of God.

Don’t fall into Judas’ trap. Whatever your 30 pieces of silver is, however much that means to you, it’s not worth it. It’s not a fair trade. It will never be a worthwhile investment.



How To Be A Prissy Girl (In A Good Way)

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Now that I’ve perhaps caught your attention, let me start by saying that I know I’ve been a naughty girl and neglected my blog and I’m filled with all kinds of sorrowful and regretful feelings about that. While my negligence probably doesn’t bother anyone else one iota, it bothers me and so I hereby promise that I will try to write more often (doesn’t sound like a very binding oath, does it? Well, take it for what it’s worth; a heartfelt desire accompanied with determination).

A little update on the Giselbachs Jr.:

This summer vacation has been one that begs a vacation from the vacation after the whole thing’s over. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but let’s just say it’s been hectic. For one thing, my husband and I have been traveling all over the country this summer for speaking engagements (WONDERFUL obligations for which we ask God and with which we are frequently blessed).  We also took our youth group at Riverbend (www.RiverbendFamily.com) to a week of challenging Christian leadership training at Horizons at FHU. It was a blessing for them as well as for us.

Also, I was given the serendipitous opportunity to be in a play this summer (Fiddler on the Roof), in which I got to play my favorite character, Hodel. It was one of those dream-come-true adventures because I’ve always wanted to play this role, and because I had to sing solos, which is a mountainous feat for someone who is terrified of singing in front of people. I’m glad I did it.

My friend Season, who works as a full-time missionary in China, came to visit me for a few weeks during her summer in America, which was absolutely magnificent. She’s always a trooper running around right along with us like the headless chickens that we are, never complaining about our frenzied lifestyle and always supporting me, bringing laughter, encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on if needed. She’s back in China now and I miss her something awful.

But the highlight of our summer happened about a week ago, when our elders paid for us to attend Polishing the Pulpit (www.polishingthepulpit.com), a week-long all-you-can-eat buffet of spiritual food for growth-hungry Christians. For more on why this event is one you just can’t miss, read this.

While there, I got to hear some amazing lessons on a variety of topics—all of which happened to be extremely relevant to my day-to-day walk with God (that’s because there’s like a million choices of classes to attend at this event. Seriously, you need go).  One of the classes I was able to attend was entitled “Being Our Husband’s Priscilla,” taught by Mrs. Donna Faughn. I was excited to hear this lady speak because she is a well-known public speaker for women AND a former English teacher. She is also the mother of Adam Faughn, who writes a practical, spiritually invigorating blog located at www.faugnfamily.com (Ben and I often read his blog together for our daily devotional time at night).

The class was great because I felt like I was introduced face-to-face to a female Bible character that, in my humble opinion, is an unsung heroine in many ways.  The class went by quickly because I was fascinated by the character study and by the lessons I drew from her. That was on Tuesday, and, as luck would have it (or maybe providence), the church with which my husband and I worshiped the next night was doing a summer series on women of the Bible. To my delight, the woman of discussion that night happened to be (you guessed it) Priscilla. Now that I’ve taken notes on two lectures on Miss Priss (thus the title of this post—yes, I nickname everything), I am now the Priscilla expert. Okay, maybe not quite an expert, but, just the same, allow me to share three things I learned about her, and why it matters to me:

1.     She was involved.  For Priscilla, Christianity wasn’t just part of her routine. It wasn’t something she did—it was who she was. Yes, she was there meeting with the saints when people were expected to be there, but that was only a small part of her ministry and service.  She didn’t allow extreme hardships to discourage her, as many do today. Imagine being forced out of your homeland and into a different country just because of your heritage. Despite Claudius’ decree that all Jews leave Rome, Priscilla didn’t let it affect her negatively. She and her husband, Aquila (love how they rhyme—very Dr. Suess of them to get married and all), moved to Rome and picked right back up where they left off. They continued to serve God passionately and they continued to work together making money as tent-makers, which is likely what drew Paul to them (Acts 18:1-2). Even though their business is mentioned, it’s obvious that Priscilla was more interested in the soul-saving business than the tent-making business. She was a seeker of opportunities to share the gospel with others. She and her husband used everything they had and every talent they possessed for evangelism. And speaking of her husband, I love how Priscilla was such a team player. Every time she is mentioned in the Bible, her name is side-by-side with her husband’s.

2.     She was willing to step out of her comfort zone. How comfortable do you think it was to step aside with Apollos, probably bringing him into her home, and correcting him for teaching what was, unbeknownst to him, false doctrine (Acts 18:26)? I would imagine it took a lot of courage, and even more than that, tact. Speaking of having people in her home, we know that she was a woman of hospitality. After all, the church met in her house (I Corinthians 16:19). I would like to think that I could have the whole church over to my house for worship every week without stressing out, but let’s be honest, I’d probably end up being a Martha (Luke 10:38-42). But we’re not talking about her. Priscilla welcomed people into her home, and she was obviously willing to be flexible when necessary. When Paul up and left Corinth to sail to Syria, she and Aquila packed up and went with him (Acts 18:18). Here’s a couple who was not so tied down to worldly obligations that they couldn’t transition in a moment if it meant doing something helpful for the kingdom. She went so far as to risk her life (Romans 16:3-4)—though we’re not sure how—for the cause. Life-threatening courage is anything but comfortable.

3.    She was a teacher of good things (Titus 2:3). Priscilla’s heart didn’t have anything to do with the mundane boundaries of the day-to-day grind. Her heart was all about eternity, and how to help as many people as possible to get there. She partnered herself with her husband to support him and aid him in his work and in his evangelism, which were intertwined—one and the same. She was a beacon of light in a society of darkness and extreme idolatry.

Modern day Priscillas are so rare, aren’t they? But if you think about it, a church simply cannot be the church you read about in Acts 2 unless it contains people like Priscilla. Priscilla makes me look at my own life with shame and resolve. I want to be like her. If my last name wasn’t so ridiculous, I’d probably name my future daughter Priscilla. (I can hear the sing-song voices of mocking children now: “Prissy Gissy wants a Kissy…” Why is it that rhyming words make insults so much more intimidating when you’re in the third grade?)

Anyway, if you think of it, pray for me as I strive to be more of a Prissy girl—in the Biblical sense, of course. 🙂



Hannah’s Heart

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Welcome to The Heart of Hannah! But really, that’s what you’ll be getting if you continue to read my blog. Me—right to the heart of me. What I hope you’ll find there is a desire and effort to rid myself of as much of that “me” word as possible. My heart, as well as most peoples’, I guess, contains a lot of selfishness that could be filled with something much better.

Actually though, my blog name is one with a double-meaning. While I chose it because you’ll definitely be getting a glimpse into my heart, I also chose it because of my deep respect for the heart of the woman after whom I was named; Hannah of I Samuel. What an awesome person she was. Hannah, in the very depths of emotions like grief, despair, aloneness, bitterness and desperation cried out to God like He was an old friend. Her grief was so great that I Samuel I mentions her emotional state 13 times. Those 13 times include words like “provoked,” “weeping,” “affliction,” “sorrowful,” and “great anxiety and vexation.”

We’ve all suffered grief in one way or another. We grieve over little things sometimes. I grieved a little when I burned the cornbread right before Dr. Lipe, one of my former college professors, came to eat lunch at our house. I grieved when my dad gave my cat away when I wasn’t home one summer when I was 6 or 7 years old. I grieved when, at 11 years old, my piano teacher told me I would never be as good as Caleb (my brother). But how many times in a person’s life is she so completely overcome with sorrow that she falls down before God and begs for mercy, regardless of what’s going on around her? Have you been there before? Well, that’s where we find Hannah. Hannah is so desperate to pour out her heart before God that she can’t wait until she gets home. She simply leaves the table of feasting and merriment and steps outside to talk to her Father. The Bible says she “wept bitterly” as she spoke to God (vs.10). I’ve always pictured her collapsing to the ground in exhaustion from her grief and anxiety as she begins her prayer.

I’ve tried to imagine what it must have felt like to put up with the constant bullying Hannah endured from Peninnah year after year after year. In that society, it must have been rather embarrassing, maybe even shameful, for a woman to be unable to have children, and Peninnah, who harbored a whole different set of emotions, took full advantage of Hannah’s dilemma. In Elkanah’s  eyes, Peninnah was always in Hannah’s shadow, as Elkanah loved Hannah most (vs. 5).  Peninnah’s envy and jealousy caused her to do to Hannah what so many of us women, especially young women are tempted to do today. Peninnah chose the one thing about Hannah that appeared inferior, and she fed on it perpetually. It was her one hope of ever looking better than Hannah.  How often are we tempted to gossip about or entertain thoughts of others’ flaws simply because we’re jealous? For some reason we think it’s empowering to put others down or even to constantly remind ourselves of the imperfections of others, just so we can feel better about ourselves. That’s what Peninnah was doing, simply because she could do something Hannah couldn’t.

I know the focus of Hannah’s distress is the fact that she was barren, but before I can dwell on that, I always get caught up in the fact that Hannah and Peninnah shared a husband. Can you imagine? I can’t fathom having to constantly compete with another woman for my husband’s time and affection. The thought is unbearable and repulsive to me. No wonder Peninnah had self-esteem issues and Hannah was nearly driven out of her mind in desperation. Aren’t you thankful God didn’t design polygamy as an acceptable option? And for the record, it wasn’t exactly an acceptable option back then, either. The problem was due to the total anarchy of Israel at that time. Everyone simply did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25), and apparently this included Elkanah. Regardless, Hannah must have been lovely in every way to be the recipient of Elkanah’s devotion despite her, as it were, disability.

But it wasn’t enough for Hannah. She, like so many women today, had an innate maternal longing inside her that I think had little to do with the harassment she underwent because of her barrenness. She wanted a child, simple as that. She wanted a child more than anything else in the whole world. She wanted to hold a baby in her arms that was her very own. Now, that’s something I can understand completely {but don’t get your hopes up, folks… no baby in the Giselbach house for a long, long time 🙂 }.

We all know the rest of her fascinating story. God did give Hannah a child and, as she promised, she took him to live in the temple as soon as he was weaned, left him there, and visited him year after year. Whether or not I think she did the right thing in making that vow is for another day. For now, I want to focus on one remarkable aspect of Hannah’s character. In her time of trial, Hannah never stopped worshipping God, and she never stopped praying to God. If you study the first chapter of I Samuel, you’ll notice that there are 14 references made to Hannah communicating directly with God, and one in I Samuel 2. My favorite mention of her prayer is when Hannah described it to Eli, who had just falsely accused her of talking gibberish in a state of intoxication. She argued, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord” (I Samuel 1:15 emp. added).  Not,  “I just said a prayer,” not “I was just saying my bedtime prayers,” but “I poured out my soul before the Lord.”

This tells me a lot about Hannah. She wasn’t just a good, God-fearing lady. Hannah had a relationship with God that was so intimate that it was only natural for her to pour out her soul to him no matter where she was or what was going on around her, and He was listening intently because He loved the heart of Hannah.

That’s what I want for this Hannah. I want to have that kind of relationship with my Father. I don’t believe it comes naturally for people. I don’t believe that intimacy with God is achieved through some emotional experience (and if so, I don’t think it’s long-lasting). I believe that kind of effortless relationship comes with a lot of hard-core discipline. My goal for 2012 is to daily bury myself deeper in God’s word and just talk to Him more often. Not just before I eat or as I’m drifting in and out of consciousness as I’m falling asleep at night. I want to have the kind of camaraderie with my Father that evokes a 24-hour communication line with Him. I know He wants that and I know He’s told me to do that (Matthew 7:7, Philippians 4:6-7, I Thessalonians 5:17, etc).  I just have to do it. Like the Hannah of I Samuel 1, I want to be so lost in God’s love that I can’t help but talk to Him, and I know that will come with time.

For starters, my husband and I, as well as our church family, are reading through the Bible chronologically in one year. We’re not just reading though—every Sunday, as a spiritual family, we’re discussing what we’ve read and how it applies to our daily lives. To see our schedule for this endeavor, check out www.riverbendfamily.com/resources.  I’m sure I’ll be spilling over with the new things I’ve learned throughout this year, maybe even after tomorrow’s study. In the meantime, this laundry isn’t going to wash itself. More soon. 🙂