. . . then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life (1 Samuel 1:11).
How do you get people emotionally invested in tires?
You don’t do it by talking about the tires, even if the tires are very good. You don’t lead with mileage or warranties or the smooth ride that those tires provide to you as a driver or passenger. All of those things may be true, but they’re boring.
Some years ago one tire company discovered a brilliant way to connect their steel-belted ring of rubber with the human heart. They did it with a baby. They plopped a diapered little chunk of cuteness in the middle of their tire and slowly rotated the infant as he or she looked about with wonderment.
The message was quite effective. When the welfare of my little one is secured by riding on that tire, then that’s the tire I want.
I’m writing this on the day following my daughter’s fifteenth birthday. This morning she took a test and the State of Georgia issued her a permit to drive - the so-called “learner’s permit.” Maybe that’s why I’m remembering that tire commercial. I’m sensing a connection between my baby girl’s well-being and a set of tires.
I’m also aware that the tire company’s message, while effective, isn’t true. Ultimately a good set of tires can’t secure the well-being of anyone we love. Good tires are important, but they’re just tires. I’d like to think there’s something I could do or something I could buy or something I could say that would keep the people I love from any and all risk of harm. There’s not.
What I can do is pray and give those I love to God’s care. We find a model for this kind of praying in Hannah, the mother of Samuel.
For the longest time Hannah could not conceive a child. Then, as now, this was a source of great distress. Her prayers were mingled with bitter weeping. Hannah wasn’t shy about pleading with God. Storming heaven’s gates, she boldly promised that if God would grant her a son, “then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.” (1 Samuel 1:9-11).
This might strike us as a manipulative prayer – a mix of begging and bargaining. Not so with Hannah. What is truly remarkable about her prayer is that her promise wasn’t empty. She didn’t forget it once her son was born, claiming some kind of exemption because of her distressed state of mind.
What God gave to Hannah, Hannah gave back to God.
Eugene Peterson observes that when Hannah was happy when her son was born. And she was even happier when she took him back to the temple and gave him back to God in the service of the priest Eli. We can hardly imagine giving a child back to God. For us that kind of talk is a metaphor, a nice idea. For Hannah it was real. Samuel belonged to God, not to her.
We tend to sentimentalize babies, using the emotions they stir to sell tires and plenty of other things. How do we take the ones God has entrusted to us and give them back to God? How do we do this with other aspects of life – a career, a possession, a talent, a marriage?
Life comes to us by grace, all of it a gift. How will you give it back to God today?
All that this day brings to me, O God, I will offer back to you. Every plan, every relationship, every circumstance both expected and unexpected, I give back to you. And I place those I love in your care, knowing that you are good and what you do is good. Amen.