A Full Plate: Hannah’s Discontent

Inspired by 1 Samuel 1

As she mended, she watched Peninnah changing soiled clothes before swinging her small son up over her shoulder effortlessly.  Before she looked back down, she was certain she saw a dark-eyed glance of superiority cast her way.  Her heartbeat echoed against the empty walls of her womb.  Hannah would never become comfortable in the room with her torturous sister wife, Peninnah.  Wasn’t it enough that Peninnah had already borne multiple children? Why must she also prod Hannah into wounded inferiority?  Hannah’s hands felt useless as she worked at household tasks that would never take the place of an infant cooing in her arms.  She was discontented, and out of her discontent came desperate pleas to God to give her what she most wanted in life- a child.

At the dinner table, she felt strongly her outcast state as Peninnah’s children bustled and shoved, chattering boisterously throughout the meal.  Yet Elkanah, in his quiet way, always made sure Hannah’s portion was double.  After all, he loved her, in spite of a culture that valued childbearing as an integral part of wifely duties.  He saw her fervent desire, and he understood her in a way that was beautifully tender.  He filled, and refilled, her plate with abundant love. Elkanah could have seen Hannah as “less than” for her inability to produce a child. He could have judged her, despised her, even discarded her. Instead, he gave her a double portion. He loved her in spite of what she lacked, and he attempted to fill that gap by exceeding her needs. Some would be envious of her husband’s love for her, just as she was envious of Peninnah’s motherhood.

I wonder, as I watch this intimate family dinner unfold, did Hannah miss it?  In her desperate desire for a child, was she blinded to the beauty of her husband’s love for her?  And further, do I miss them-the blessings I take for granted while I wait impatiently for new answers to prayer, new ventures, new blessings?  Hannah is known as the face of answered prayers, a fervent believer graced by God with the son she requested. And yet, I see in this small daily moment of her life a side of myself that is not pleasing. It is a desperate focus on the lack, not the abundance.  It is taking for granted what I have to hope for what I may never receive.

Wherever you are in your journey, there will be those who have what you seek.  It may be a beautiful home, a successful career, a healthy child.  But chances are, you life is full as well. Don’t miss the fullness of a moment for the emptiness of a desire as yet unfulfilled.  Maybe, like Hannah, that desire will be quenched.  But maybe, when you focus on what you already have, that emptiness will feel less hollow,will echo less pain, and you will find fullness at the dinner table.

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