Hannah – A Picture of an Old-Fashioned Mother
“When Elkanah and all his household went up to make the annual sacrifice and his vow offering to the Lord, Hannah did not go and explained to her husband, ‘After the child is weaned, I’ll take him to appear in the Lord’s presence and to stay there permanently.’ Her husband Elkanah replied, ‘Do what you think is best, and stay here until you have weaned him. May the Lord confirm your word.’ So Hannah stayed there and nursed her son until she weaned him” (1 Sam. 1:21-23).
This picture that is before us is a picture of a mother of the olden times. The story of Hannah is invested with rare interest. It is one of those narratives whose charm is their unadorned simplicity. Even though she lived so long ago, this mother still stands in the radiant spirit of her life, in the clearness of her faith, and in the devotion of her motherhood, as a model for Christian mothers in these modern ages. There are some things that grow old and out of date – but motherhood does not. It is always the same in its duties, its responsibilities, its sacred privileges, and its possibilities of influence. The old picture is new and fresh, therefore, in every age, to every true-hearted mother who looks upon it.
For one thing, Hannah, as a mother, was enthusiastic. She was not one of those women who think children to be undesirable encumbrances. She did not consider herself, in her earlier married years, particularly fortunate in being free from the cares and responsibilities of motherhood. She believed that children were blessings from the Lord, and that motherhood was the highest honor possible to a woman; and she reverently and very earnestly sought from God the privilege of pressing a little child to her bosom, and calling it her own. We must not overlook this line in the ancient picture in these days when children are not always regarded as blessings from the Lord, nor even always welcomed.
For another thing, when Hannah’s child came, she considered it a part of her pious duty to nurture and care for him. Therefore, instead of going up to Shiloh to attend all the great feasts, as she had done before; she stayed at home for some time, in order to give personal attention to the little one that God had given her, who was still too young to be taken with safety and comfort on such long journeys. No doubt she supposed that she was worshiping God just as acceptably in doing this as if she had gone up to all the great religious meetings. And who will say that she was not right?
A mother’s first obligations are to her children; she can have no holier or more sacred duties than those which relate to them. No amount of public religious service will atone for neglect of these. She may run to social and missionary meetings, and abound in all kinds of charitable activities; and she may do very much good among the poor by carrying blessings to many other homes, and being a blessing to other people’s children. But if she fails, in the meantime, to care for her own children, she can scarcely be commended as a faithful Christian mother! She has overlooked her first and most sacred duties while she gives her hand and heart to those that are only secondaryto her.
Hannah’s way, evidently, was the true one. Some things must be crowded out of every earnest life, but the last thing to be crowded out of a mother’s life should be the faithful and loving care of her children. The preacher may urge that everyone should do something in the general work of the church, but the mother herself must decide whether Jesus wants her to take up any religious work outside her own home. For the work there, she is surely responsible; but for the work outside, she is not responsible until her responsibility to her children is well done, and she has time and strength for new duties.
Another thing about Hannah was that she looked after her own baby. She did not hire any kind of babysitter and commit her tender child to her care, so that she herself might have a “free foot” for parties, visits, operas, and social and religious duties. She was old-fashioned enough to prefer to care for her own child. She does not seem to have felt it any great personal deprivation to be kept rather closely at home for a year or two on that account. She even appears to have thought it a high honor and a distinguished privilege to be a mother, and to do with her own hands a mother’s duties. And when we think what Hannah’s child became in later years, and when we see the outcome of all her pains and self-denials and toils – it certainly looks as if Hannah was right!
It is not likely she ever regretted that she had missed a few parties and other social privileges in order to nurse and care for Samuel in his tender infancy, when she saw her son in the prime and splendor of his power and usefulness. If anything even half so good comes out of ordinary but faithful mothering, there cannot be any occupations open to women – even in these advanced modern days – which will yield such satisfactory long-term results as the wise and true bringing up of children. Many women sigh for distinction in the professions, or as authors or artists or singers; but after all, is there any distinction so noble, so honorable, so worthy, and so enduring as that which a true motherwins when she has brought up a child who takes his place in the ranks of Godly people?
Could Mary, the mother of Jesus, have found any mission, in any century, greater than that of caring for the holy Child Who was laid in her arms? Or if that example is too high, could the mothers of Moses, Samuel, or Augustine have done more for the world if they had devoted themselves to art, poetry, music, or any kind of profession?
Perhaps Hannah was right; and if so, the old-fashioned motherhood is better than the new, and the mother herself is her own child’s best caretaker. A hired woman may be very skillful; but surely she cannot be the best one to shape the soulof the child, and awaken and draw out its latent powers and affections. The mother may, by employing such a substitute, be left free to pursue the fashionable round of dining and amusement and social engagements; but meanwhile, what is becoming of the tender, immortal life at home – thus left practically motherless, in order to be nurtured and trained by a hireling stranger? And besides, what becomes of the holy mission of motherhood, which the birth of every child lays upon her who gave it life?
The great need of this age is mothers who will live with their own children, and throw over their tender lives all the mighty power of their own rich, warm, loving natures. If we would only have a generation of Hannahs, we would then have a generation of Samuels growing up under their wise and devoted nurture!
There is one other feature in this old-fashioned mother that should not be overlooked. She raised her child for the Lord. From the very beginning, she looked upon him as God’s child, not hers. And she only considered herself as God’s nurse, whose duty was to bring up the child for a holy life and service. It is easy to see what a dignity and splendor this gave to the whole toilsome round of motherly tasks and dutieswhich the successive days brought to her hand. This was God’s child that she was caring for, and she was bringing him up for the Lord’s service in two worlds. Nothing ever seemed drudgery, and no duty to her little one was hard or distasteful, with this thought always glowing in her heart. Does any woman have loftier or more powerful inspiration for toil and self-forgetfulness than this?
And is there any mother who may not have the same inspiration as she goes through her round of commonplace home tasks? Was Samuel God’s child in any higher sense when Hannah was caring for him, than all the little ones that lie in the arms of thousands of mothers today? In every mother’s ears, when a baby is laid in her arms, the breath of the Lord speaks this holy whisper, if she only has ears to hear the Divine voice: “Take this child, and nurse it for Me!” God wants Christian mothers to bring up their children for pure and noble lives, and for holy missions. Every mother, when the lot of motherhood falls upon her, is consecrated to the sacred service of shaping and training an infant life for God. Hannah understood this, and she found her task full of glory. But how many – even among Christian mothers – fail to understand this? And then, being unsustained by a consciousness of the dignity and blessedness of their high calling, they look upon its duties and self-denials as a painful round of toilsome and wearisome drudgery.
It will be well worthwhile for every mother to sit down quietly beside Hannah, and try to learn her secret. It will change the humblest home into a holy sanctuary; and it will transform the commonest, lowliest duties of motherhood into services as splendid as those which the radiant angels perform before the Father’s face!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for our King’s glory,
photo by Prixel Creative | Lightstock.com
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on my website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.