I don't usually teach Gospel Doctrine, so when I have to substitute for my brother's class, I tend to over-prepare. I'll be the first to admit I'm a little intimidated by the breadth of material covered by these Old Testament lessons, and heaven forbid I should disprove my know-it-all reputation by failing to cross-reference every footnote in the reading material.
I began preparing for a lesson on the later chapters of 1 Samuel by reading Hannah's story at the beginning of the book. It had been a rough day with the boys, especially G-Dog. Though he is a twin, he is still consistently dominant and takes on the role of oldest child. He tends to amplify the intensity of any situation, good or bad: when things are going well, he thrives on the praise he receives for his good choices, but when we're at odds, he has a tendency to keep pushing until one or both of us spirals out of control. I am the adult. I should not lose it, but the reality is that sometimes I lose my cool and it's almost always over something G-Dog has done, or won't do, or won't stop doing. I am not proud of this.
I have always felt a certain kinship with the many infertile women of the Old Testament, and found a certain solace in the use of barrenness as a metaphor, but I had never taken notice of Hannah before. After enduring years of childlessness, she pleads for a son, vowing to give him to the Lord. The Lord opens her womb, and after her Samuel is weaned, she delivers him to Eli at the temple so that he might be trained in the ways of the Priesthood.
She says: "For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there." (See 1 Samuel 1:27-28)
I got hung up on that first verse: "For this child I prayed: and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him."
And I could not help thinking of G-Dog. For this child, I prayed. For this child, I begged, pleaded, bargained, wept, despaired. For this child, I endured needles, probes, surgeries, heartache, frustration, desolation, drugs, pain, and indignities. And the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him.
And then I heard a voice. "He is mine," it said. "He is mine." I knew then that this child, who is my toughest, who is a challenge harder to handle than the seven years of infertility we endured before he was born, is loved, watched, cradled, cherished by the Lord.
I am now exactly where I wanted to be: my babies all slumbering in the next rooms, husband asleep at my side, life full of people I love and time occupied by worthy projects. And yet. Time and again those things are not enough to motivate me to choose better. To be better.
This child -- all of these children -- lent to me but for a short space, are my teachers more than I am theirs. I wonder that their noble spirits were given to me, a most unworthy mother, and pray that this petition, too, will be heard by the Lord: that I will be equal to the challenge. That I will not damage them with my lack of patience. That I will be humbled -- finally, by strong-willed children who can teach me to rely on the Lord more than I have ever had to. That we may all grow together. That I can be like Hannah, and recognize in my little ones the spark of divine.