Have you ever had a desire, a hunger, a longing so profound that any sacrifice would be worth its fulfillment?

For me, it was a child. I got married at 31 and immediately went about the “work” of getting pregnant – certain I had no time to lose. At 32, with no result, infertility treatments began. At 34, after countless tests, unsuccessful rounds of in-vitro, and more invasive (and expensive) processes yet to come, I quit. My desire did not, however. It would not comply.

And so, from the physical to the spiritual, I took my request to a different plane. I prayed. I pleaded. I made bargains and deals. And I got mad – pounding my fists at an elusive God in an imagined heaven.

Until one day, after five years of waiting, hoping, and fearing to ever hope again, I was pregnant. Five home-tests and one at the doctor’s finally convinced me it was true. And, 15 months after Emma’s birth, I was pregnant again with Abby. Miracles, both. Answers to prayer. Desire fulfilled – again and again.

Was it my praying that brought them to be? Was it my bargaining: my promise of endless love and devotion to God? Was it just luck and coincidence? I do not know. But for all my doubt, this certainty remained: I could not imagine ever losing them or letting them go.

Unlike Hannah.

Hannah was married but barren. Her husband had a second wife (common in that time) who did have children, constantly taunted her, and left her feeling even more lacking, more sad. And, adding insult to injury, her husband would say to her, “Why are you so depressed? Am I not worth 10 sons to you?” Like me, she prayed – and prayed – and prayed. Unlike me, she made a vow: “If you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life…” (I might have whispered something like this in my endless intercession, but I wouldn’t have really meant it.) Then one day, Hannah did become pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

She fulfilled her promise to God. When Samuel was weaned, she took him to the temple and left him with a priest named Eli – which is where Samuel stayed, grew up, and through which became a leader and prophet in ancient Israel.

Impossible. Heart-rending. Incredible.

Back to my opening question: Have you ever had a desire, a hunger, a longing so profound that any sacrifice would be worth its fulfillment? Hannah’s answer is “yes.” Even more, her “yes” speaks to us in two profound and relevant ways today:

Will you hold on to desire, no matter what, no matter how impossible the odds, no matter how foolish it seems?

Are you willing to let go of the very thing you have desired on behalf of something bigger than yourself – in trust, in faith, in hope?

These are not easy questions. A quick response would be “yes” to the first and “mmmmaybe” to the second. But I wonder… A more honest response (speaking for myself) is a “no” to the first because of my pre-determined “no” to the second. See if this sounds even remotely familiar:

We don’t trust, we don’t have faith, we don’t hope because it’s just too risky. We don’t desire because experience has taught us that it either gets us into trouble or we have too many memories of it being disappointed.

But here is where Hannah voice sings out, sounds out, and transcends all time and space to say “No!” She calls you to what is deeper, stronger, and undeniable within. She says,

“What you desire more than all else is worth asking for, crying out for, praying for, longing for – no matter what. And once granted, if it is as big and amazing and glorious as you’d imagined, you’ll want to loosen your grip on it so that it can become even larger, even more amazing, even more glorious.”

To be honest, I wrestle with this. And…Hannah’s voice and story echo in my heart. She calls me (and maybe even you) to unswerving desire and complete sacrifice.

This is a call – and not for the faint of heart. This is a calling – for the strong in heart. And this is who I know you to be.

Hannah may be the woman-and-story who comes alongside you in 2019 and beyond. That would be something, yes? May it be so – whether her or another of the 52 stories I reimagine, retell, and redeem.

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