I have always loved the story of Hannah in the bible because I identified with her, but not in the conventional way that you might imagine. I have actually wept as I read this story because my heart hurt so much for Hannah- the woman with a deep desire who was provoked by her husband’s other wife, Peninnah.
When I thought about writing this yesterday, I thought I was going to go in a different direction with the lessons I see in this story for me in my life but there is a lesson that has been specifically important to me.
Thankfully, I have two beautiful children the Lord has given to me so I have never experienced infertility. I do not identify what Hannah experienced in that.
But I do STRONGLY identify with Hannah’s feelings of wanting something so badly.
You see, I have an idol that I keep struggling with. I am crying as I share this with you because it is such a raw and tender place in my heart. I think that I have crucified this idol… and it springs back. I think I have thrown it away… and it reappears.
My idol is that, in my marriage, I have always wanted to be my husband’s number one priority. And in many, many, MANY, too many to count ways, I am. But that has never satisfied me. I have craved being his priority above all else.
This has almost destroyed me at times. This has given our marriage more dings and dents than any other issue we have faced.
And to be clear, a wife should be her husband’s first earthly priority. Why else would God have commanded that a man ‘cleave’ to his wife? But the enforcement of that is not a wife’s responsibility or her jurisdiction. It is God’s.
Priority has been something I have craved. Maybe you can identify? I wanted him to not only have me as his first priority but to be very verbal and strong about letting others know that.
I wanted to be his priority when it came to his free time and activities and when it came to all his other human relationships. Thankfully, I have always been okay with him having his own time, hobbies and relationships with other people BUT if I felt threatened or if push came to shove, my idol would rear it’s head. It would scream to be sated. Until I felt there was some gesture on my husband’s part to prove his devotion lay first with me, I felt bitter and hurt. Sometimes he made that gesture on his own and my idol would sneer in victory. Sometimes me made that gesture after a not so gentle shove from his wife and my idol would taunt me for the insincerity of it all. Sometimes there was no gesture at all. At those times, I would not know how I would ever deal with my heartache. The bible says that Hannah “was in bitterness of soul” and I get that. (1 Samuel 1:10) I feel you, Hannah. Bitterness of soul is a perfect description for how I felt when I did not get what I wanted.
Now, before you think I am comparing myself to this saintly woman of God, I am asking you to just stay with me. It is going to come together. I have/had an idol. Hannah had a desire. But hang on….
Because of this sin in my life- of idolatry- this lesson has come to me time and time again… because I kept failing it, I had to keep retaking the class.
Hannah wanted a child so badly. On top of that, Peninnah was very, very unkind to her. It wasn’t enough that she “was in bitterness of soul” but she had to deal with her husband’s other wife, Peninnah.
Have you ever been there? You have a wound so raw and so painful and there is someone who knows exactly how to pour salt into it? How to increase your pain and hurt? And seems to take pleasure in doing it?
I have felt that way. I have felt like the relationships my husband seemed to put before me were with people who took pleasure in hurting me and flaunting that. The bible says this of Peninnah, “And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret.” (1 Samuel 1:6) Sometimes people know just where to hit you. They have something that you want so badly and they let you know they have what you want.
Here is where Hannah and I have taken different paths. Hannah made a godly choice. She chose to give this situation over to God. Right after the bible tells us she was in bitterness of soul, it tells us that she “prayed unto the Lord and wept sore”. In the very same verse- she was in bitterness of soul and then she prayed unto the Lord and wept sore. She GAVE this over to God. She poured out her heart to Him. And she did it without hesitation. And she left it with him, to answer or not to answer in the way she hoped.
I did not make the godly choice. Thankfully, I am learning to do so, now. But for many years, I stayed in bitterness of soul. I did not move on to give this to God to do with as He saw fit as Hannah did. I stayed in that bitterness for 10 long years. There was MUCH hesitation on my part. I enjoyed my bitterness of soul. I got very comfortable there. That bitterness was my constant companion and I was very, very attached to it.
But that bitterness was not healthy for me. Although it fed my pride and my arrogance and my sinful nature and that felt enjoyable to wallow in, it also was misery to live with. It robbed me of many precious moments I could have and should have enjoyed with my husband. It gave me a skewed sense of reality. It made me see everything through my’ bitterness lens.’ A lot of times things I felt like I was put as second and I really wasn’t. Sometimes I truly was. This bitterness lens kept me so focused on the idol of always being my husband’s first priority that I missed a lot of blessings along the way.
Working through giving up this idol has been a process. I think I am through with it and it pops back up again. I had to fight it down again this week. I have to be alert for it at all times and deal with it the minute it appears. I have to make the decision to turn away from this idol and toward the one of true peace- allowing God to be my all.
How I wish I had made the choice to turn to God earlier and hand Him my heart like Hannah did. I wish I had not allowed myself to dwell on the salt others were pouring into my wounds and let that salt become poison.
Thankfully, I am learning. I cannot say this idol will never spring up again because I believe it most likely will. I also believe that God will help me to crucify it each and every time if I turn to Him, if I keep handing Him my heart, if I keep my eyes focused on Him.
Don’t be fooled; I still have to deal with this idol at times. It is not as strong as it once was. I don’t feel it lingering as often. Some days, I have let go of it completely.
Letting go of this idol allows me to breathe. To relax. Standing guard as the priority police was hard work. The flip side or retiring from that position is that you can really get addicted to living in peace. I am. 🙂
And the beautiful thing about this is that many times when I let go, I see the love that my husband does have for me. My eyes are opened to all the ways he does express that each and every day. It was like for years he was handing me flowers and I was screaming and rejecting them because they weren’t the right color. I am lucky he kept trying at all.
I am learning to be thankful for any gesture of love that says I am a priority to my husband. Sometimes this even inspires him to want to give me more. Sometimes it doesn’t. I can be okay either way without that pesky idol in the way.
Letting go of your husband is only one part of this equation. Letting God have your husband to deal with is completely a different one. Putting things in God’s hands makes a beautiful ending.