Hannah had promised the Lord of hosts that if God would give her a son, then she would give her son back to God all the days of his life, “and the Lord remembered her, and in due time, Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.'”
When her husband went up to the Shiloh to offer his annual sacrifice, and all his household with him, Hannah would not go. She said, “I will go when I have weaned him.” She would not go back to Shiloh, into the presence of God, until she had had her fill of him, until she was good and ready.
She told God, “You gave him to me. He is yours; but he is also mine. You will have him all the days of his life; but for now, he is mine, and I am keeping him to myself. For now, I am holding him. For now, I am holding on to him,” because mothers will talk to God that way (God seems to understand).
When he was weaned, although he was still very young, she brought him back to Shiloh, and handed him over to the priest, although even then, she told him, “I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord,” shared, not given, because that’s how mothers talk to God, and God seems to understand.
Every year after that, when they went up for the sacrifice, Hannah would bring Samuel a robe that she had made for him. She would guess how much he had grown, how he had changed, and stitch everything that she had missed about him into his new coat, so that when she saw him, it would not be too much of a shock, there would not be too much sadness to spoil the joy of seeing her firstborn once more.
And the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in popularity, and in favour with God. (I Samuel 1-2)
Hannah let him go, let him grow, piece by piece, first her body releasing his, then her breasts, then her arms, then her needle-pricked fingertips, never her heart and soul. And Hannah would continue to pray for him, to wrestle with God over him, because a mother will do that, and God seems to get it.
Tomorrow, my eldest daughter leaves for college for the first time, and I will hug her and let her go, knowing that she will grow in stature and in favour with God and her companions on the way, because she is beloved and loving and good and wise and her own true self, and she was asked for of God, and she is given by God.
And I will pray for her, and I will wrestle with God over her, and I will cry, even though I’m glad for her and proud of her, because that’s just how it goes. And I am not very good at sewing new coats, but I will find something to bring her, when I make my next pilgrimage to the place where she is going.