I Miss My Brother

"Mom, I miss my big brother," Jesse remarked. "Why doesn't he live with us?"

Hannah responded, "Come sit next to me, Jesse."

"Me, too! I miss him, too!" Three-year-old Jacob followed Jesse everywhere and tried to copy everything he did.

"I want to hear, too." Five-year-old Abel ran to sit on the other side of his mother.

Jacob went to Hannah and put his hands on her knees. "Please let me sit in your lap." Hannah picked him up and set him in her lap.

"Susanna! Abigail! Leave your chores and come sit with us for a while."

The girls were happy to have a break and quickly sat down on a mat on the floor.

"I want to tell you about your oldest brother, Samuel," Hannah began.

"No matter how many times you tell us, Mom, I never get tired of hearing the story," Susanna interrupted.

"Me neither," Abigail added.

"Mom, I know what you've told us in the past, but I still don't think it's fair that Samuel doesn't live with us!" Jesse commented. "He's my big brother and he should be here."

"Don't you love Samuel, Mom?" Abel asked. "I mean, how can you and Dad go see him once a year, and then just leave him there?"

"Mom, are you going to leave me somewhere and then go away?" Jacob's eyes filled with tears.

"No, of course not," Hannah responded. "Let me tell you what happened before your brother Samuel was born. Then you will be better able to understand."

The children sat quietly while Hannah began to tell the story.

"Many years ago, before Samuel or any of you were born, I was very, very sad. Your father and I had been married a long time, but I was unable to have any children. Every year I kept hoping that I would become pregnant, and every year I was disappointed.

"Whenever your father would find me crying and not eating he would say, ‘Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than 10 sons?'

"I desperately wanted to have children. I thought to myself, Soon I will be too old. I must have a child! I didn't know what to do.

"Every year your father and I would go to the Lord's house at Shiloh. Your father would bring a sacrifice and we would worship the Lord. One year, when I had reached my lowest point, I spent time weeping and asking the Lord to give me a son. I made a vow to God that if He gave me a son, then I would give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.

"Eli, the priest, saw that my lips were moving but no words were coming out of my mouth. I was praying silently. But he thought that I was drunk!

"I immediately told him, ‘No, I have not been drinking; I was pouring my soul out to the Lord. I have been praying in great grief and sadness.'

"Then Eli responded, ‘Go in peace, and may God grant you what you have asked of Him.'

"I no longer felt so sad because I knew that God had heard my prayer. At the right moment I became pregnant, and nine months later Samuel was born. I could hardly contain my joy! At long last, I had a son!

"When your father went up to Shiloh to worship I stayed home with Samuel. He was too young to travel. I nursed him until he could drink from a cup and eat on his own. Then I knew that it was time for me to take him to Eli the priest and fulfill the vow that I had made to the Lord."

"Did you ever think about forgetting your promise and keeping Samuel?" Jesse asked. "I mean, maybe God wouldn't really mind."

"Oh, no, my son. When you make a vow to God you must always keep it! I was so grateful that God had given me a son. I never allowed myself to think of keeping him. I made him a linen outfit to wear like Eli the priest wears. Then your father and I brought him to Shiloh and presented Samuel to Eli."

"But, Mom, who takes care of Samuel?" Abel asked. "Who feeds him and tucks him into bed at night? He must have been so afraid when you left him there and went home."

"My son, Eli has taken very good care of your brother. Every year I make a new robe for Samuel and your father and I take it to him. When we first brought your brother to Eli I told Eli, ‘I am the woman who stood here praying to the Lord. God granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give Samuel to the Lord. For his whole life he will serve the Lord in His house.'"

"But how do you know that's what Samuel wants to do?" Jesse questioned. "Did you ever ask him?"

"My son, God gave me Samuel as a precious gift. But He also chose Samuel to be His priest. He planned that for Samuel before He created him. Samuel didn't fully understand this when he was a very young boy, but he understands it now. Your brother is happy to be living with Eli and serving in God's house."

Hannah continued, "Every year when we go up to Shiloh Eli pronounces the same blessing on your father and me. ‘May the Lord give you children to take the place of the one you prayed for and gave to the Lord.'"

"God has given you five more children," Susanna remarked.

"Yes, He has, and every one of you is precious to me. God has a plan for each of your lives, just as He has a plan for Samuel's life," Hannah explained.

"But, Mom, I don't know what God's plan is for me," Jesse responded.

"You will know when you get older, Jesse. Just keep staying close to the Lord and seek His help in making every decision. He will guide you, just as He has guided your father and me."

Hannah noticed that Abigail had not spoken a word in quite a while. "Abigail, what is on your mind? You're so quiet."

"I just wondered if any of us kids would have been born if you hadn't honored your promise to God and taken Samuel to God's house."

"No, I don't believe God would have blessed me with any of you children if I had broken my promise to Him. And I don't know what would have happened to Samuel. God is holy and He knows all things. When He makes a promise He keeps it. But we must also keep our promises."

"Mom, I hope that someday I can be as strong a mother as you," Susanna said with a smile. "You kept praying for such a long time. Then you chose to give back to God the child that you had desperately wanted. I don't think I would have been strong enough to do that."

"God helped me, Susanna. I could not have done it in my own strength," Hannah responded. "He will also help you to make the right choices."

"I guess you're right, Mom," Jesse commented. "If you had made the wrong choice, none of us would have a future."

"Thanks, Mom," Abigail said as she hugged Hannah. "Your choice gave each of us a destiny that God planned just for us."

© by Nancy A. Stevens