Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Songs in the Night: "True Love Waits". Why?

Songs in the Night: "True Love Waits". Why?:      I keep getting asked when I am going to publish a new blog entry. I keep jotting down ideas and then abandoning them. Sometimes I wake...

#25: "True Love Waits". Why?

     I keep getting asked when I am going to publish a new blog entry. I keep jotting down ideas and then abandoning them. Sometimes I wake up during the night with what I imagine to be a great idea, but that inspiration seems to fade away like a passing dream upon awakening the next morning. Then there is the problem of my reading others' blogs and seeing how creative and visually pleasing they are and feeling that what I have to say is uninteresting and certainly not visually exciting or cute. Or, maybe I just don't have anything to say? No. That's not it.
     Hardly. I always have plenty to say. Just ask my kids, my husband, my relatives, and even my patients. Keeping my silence is often quite difficult for me--especially if I know I am RIGHT, But, being right isn't always the point of writing or speaking. Sometimes, my husband tells me, having to be right on an issue results in being dead right. Winning the argument has the potential to do more harm than good. Today, however, there will be a winner and a loser. It is election day. And thus, today, I want to broach a subject about which there is a definite "right", an issue which involves real losers and winners.
     However, I have no intention of writing about politics as we await the election results. People have voted, many of them early, and those who are voting later today have made up their minds. The evening news will tell us the results of our choices. We will then have to live with the consequences of our choices. Consequences of choices, then, is the topic of today's blog-- specifically, the consequences of our sexual choices.
     I have been thinking about the slogan "True Love Waits" that I see emblazoned on many rings and t-shirts worn by young people who have taken a vow of chastity until marriage:  These teenagers and college students have made a commitment to God, to their families, to their peers, to those they date, and to their future spouses that they will abstain from intercourse and sexual conduct until they enter into marriage. God asks Christians to conduct themselves by His principles, and saving sex for marriage is His ideal for our lives.
    "True Love Waits" is a movement that began twenty years ago as part of a plan to promote Christian sex education. A youth group at Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Hermitage, Tennessee, was first to sign True Love Waits commitment cards" in February 1993. 

"True Love Waits is an international campaign that challenges teenagers and college students to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. To date, over a million young people have signed covenant cards stating
"Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship."  http://www.lifeway.com/Article/true-love-waits-leaders-faq

The program is now a huge movement that promotes sexual purity in churches, in schools, and on college campuses around the world.  Here are some of the FAQs excerpted from the True Love Waits website:

'What does sexual purity mean exactly?
Sexual purity includes abstaining from intercourse until marriage, but that is not all it means. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28). By Jesus' definition, being sexually pure means not even dwelling on thoughts of sex with someone other than a spouse.
Until you are married, sexual purity means saying no to sexual intercourse, oral sex, and even sexual touching. It means saying no to a physical relationship that causes you to be "turned on" sexually. It means not looking at pornography or pictures that feed sexual thoughts.
Sexual purity does not end with marriage. Marriage partners are supposed to experience sexual love with each other in a way that is fulfilling to both. However, purity means being completely faithful to your spouse in thought and deed. "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" (Heb. 13:4).
Is sex a bad thing?
No. God designed us as sexual beings. He invented sex! He also made a place for it: marriage. In Genesis 2:24 God tells of His plan for marriage, that "a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." The sexual relationship makes the two become one flesh. The Bible speaks of sexual immorality, so there must also be such a thing as sexual morality, right? That morality is based on God's plan for sex.
If we're in love, isn't it OK?                                                                                                                   God created sex for a lifetime commitment between one woman and one man. Sex outside of a committed marriage relationship violates God's standards. When you are wearing a wedding ring, you won't have to hope your partner loves you; you will have heard your spouse pledge to you in front of God, your families, and your friends. Anything less cheapens sex.
What if things just happen?
Sex is not an accident. Sex is progressive, meaning one act leads to another. Things won't "just happen" if you set boundaries and stick to them. If you make the decision now to abstain from sex and to live a pure life, then you will already know the answer before you encounter any compromising situation. Plus, the Holy Spirit gives us self-control to use when we are tempted."  
      I am grateful for the True Love Waits movement and for the education they have provided to young people for over twenty years.  I am thankful for their efforts in promoting abstinence as part of sex education. But, the information from the True Love Waits website is not enough for me. I have more questions. They might not fit into the FAQs, but to me they are important to answer. So here are my questions for those who choose to take the True Love Waits vow, those who wear the ring, or those who might be considering it, or those who are curious about the consequences of young people engaging in sexual behavior.
1. Why is waiting important? It is important because not waiting causes big problems.
     As a Psychiatrist I see the fallout in the lives of those who have chosen to have sex or indulge in sexual behavior before marriage. The outcomes of those choices are usually not happy ones and include the following (though this is certainly not an exhaustive list):
Unwanted pregnancy, abortion, infertility, infection, sexually transmitted diseases, self esteem problems, multiple sexual partners, inability to bond well once one is married, sexual problems in marriage, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, loss of self-respect,  endometriosis or other medical problems, inability to accomplish personal goals, early drop-out from school or college, trouble attaining career goals,  poor choice of spouse, and higher divorce rates.
2. Who am I hurting if I don't wait?  Many people
     You are hurting your family and your relationship with them. Your secrets, lies, and deceptive behavior drives a wedge between you and your parents. You damage their faith and trust in you. Trust once lost is difficult to regain. As adults familiar with what a sexual relationship means, they know that once you become involved with someone sexually you will not have good judgement or objectivity about making important life decisions. 
     You are hurting the child you might conceive. If you get pregnant or cause a pregnancy and elect to have an abortion, you are destroying a life--a life given by God. You become guilty of murder. If that child is born, he is more likely to have problems because of the probability of less prenatal care and poorer nutrition of the mother. The security of his future is threatened. Will he be given up for adoption? Given to a family member to rear? Kept by a single mom struggling to make it on her own? Be thrust into the midst of a hurried up marriage between two people who were not really ready to commit to such? Be abused or neglected because he really wasn't wanted? Be reared in the absence of a father? Absence of fathers in the lives of their children causes even more problems for that child and for other generations.
     You are hurting the person with whom you are involved. You are showing him or her a lack of respect, a disregard for her health, and disdain for her future happiness. You care nothing for her future spouse and children. You care not for the health of her body, spirit, or soul. You increase the likelihood that your partner will have psychiatric problems, infections, and infertility. You interfere with her ability to make wise decisions about her education and her life goals. You serve to potentially derail her life. You wedge yourself between her and her God; you impose yourself between her and her parents. You may say that you love her, but you are lowering her, isolating her, and demeaning her.
     You are hurting yourself. Sex and sexual behavior results in much more that the pleasure of the moment and release of sexual tension. The sex act, including oral sex or masturbation, affects the brain and does so in a negative way in teens and young adults. In a new book, Hooked, Dr.Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush describe how hormones and neurotransmitters in both the male and female are released in response to sexual activity--hormones that are designed to cause bonding and permanent attachment. When sex is misused, damage results. 
"The authors put it this way: “Our decision-making ability, coming from the highest centers of the brain, can guide an individual to the most rewarding sexual behavior—unless bad programming from premature and unwise sexual behavior during the adolescent years has occurred, causing the brain formation for healthy decision making to be damaged.”
As the book explains it, sexual activity triggers chemical reactions in the brain that help shape how we think and feel—in fact, they help shape the very development of our brains, especially in adolescents.
This makes teens susceptible to getting “hooked” on “unwise sexual behavior.” Their brains actually can come to perceive dangerous and unhealthy behavior—like sleeping with one partner after another—as normal. And this can damage the brain’s emotional bonding mechanism, making it difficult for a teenager to form healthy, long-term relationships in the future." http://www.breakpoint.org/commentaries/1868-hooked
Sex becomes more like a drug, an addiction that serves to control and destroy those involved, a destructive drive that pushes other, more essential things out of their lives. Sexually transmitted diseases? Yes. But, brain damage? Absolutely.
You are hurting your future spouse and putting the success of that marriage in jeopardy. Your ability to conceive and bear children may be impaired as a result of abortion, infection, or scarring of Fallopian tubes. You may be a carrier of a sexually transmitted disease and expose your spouse  and your unborn children to that disease. You are risking having trouble bonding with that spouse. You create doubt in the mind of your spouse that you will be able to be faithful to him or her. You introduce the possibility that you might become bored and leave the relationship. You didn't  love the promise of that spouse enough to wait, to save yourself as a gift to him or her.
You are hurting your relationship with God. God asks you to have no other gods before Him. He asks you to save sexual activity for marriage. When you defy Him and willfully disobey Him, you are essentially putting someone else in the place of God. You are saying that your opinions and preferences are more important than what God has to say. You put yourself on the throne of your life. Your life becomes self-centered, rather than God-centered. You are saying that a relationship with a person is more important than your relationship with God. You are making your sexual partner an idol, and you are guilty of idolatry before God.
If you are a Christian, you are hurting your witness and influence with other people. They are less likely to trust or respect you or your opinions and are more likely to mistrust God and dislike church and Christians because of your behavior. You reinforce their opinion that Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites.
3. Why is your slogan "True Love Waits'?
     If it doesn't wait, it is not love. It is the opposite. True lust hates. A person who demands or expects sex or any type of sexual favor from you without a commitment of marriage loathes rather than loves you. He is selfish rather than self-sacrificing. He loves himself more than he loves you or others. He has no regard or respect for you. He has no respect for God. He puts you, his partner, under his influence and control, impairing your judgement, making you so myopic that you cannot see your way clearly. Sex becomes your master. The drug determines your destiny. He is not a person under authority. He is not the one that you want to stake your life on. He is playing God in his own life and in yours,  instead of stepping aside and letting God be God. In simple terms, he is committing the same sin of rebellion that Satan did which resulted in his being thrown out of heaven. He wanted to be equal with God. He wanted to be worshiped. Your sexual partner is coming between you and God; he is trying to take you away from your first love, Who is God. True love waits on God's timing and God's choice. True love waits. Though I am not a Mormon, a Mormon website states "True love is built on the foundation of trust, sacrifice, loyalty, and patience." On this we agree. If your boyfriend or girlfriend does not want to wait, he or she does not love you and, indeed, does not even understand the definition of love.
     So, what to do if you are already involved in sexual behavior outside marriage? Stop now. Get out of the relationship. Delete that person from your contact list. Use caller ID. Don't answer his calls or respond to his text messages. Delete him from your Facebook friends. Don't delude yourself into believing that you can still be friends. The alcoholic doesn't keep beer in the refrigerator if he wants to stay in recovery. See a Christian counselor for help sorting out your emotions, conflicts  and issues. Realize that it will be difficult but doable. See a physician if you are depressed, suicidal, or think you may be pregnant or might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. Abstain. Call on God to help you with your struggle. Ask His forgiveness and tell Him you want Him to be first in your life and that you want His will for your present and your future. Like an addict or alcoholic, surround yourself with people who share your convictions and your new or renewed commitment to purity from now until marriage. Realize that your appetite for sex doesn't just go away. You must be involved actively in recovery by filling your life with other things that honor God and build you up and help you heal.
    God is bigger than your bad relationship. God is stronger than your obsession. He is the Great Physician, and His promises are always true. He is love, He is truth, He is light.
Click this link to hear Christy Nockles sing "Healing Is In Your Hand"
26 Bible verses about true love waits: http://www.openbible.info/topics/true_love_waits
Waiting predicts a better marriage: http://www.openbible.info/topics/true_love_waits
Why should I save sex for marriage? : http://christiananswers.net/q-sum/sum-f001.html
35 characteristics of a relationship addict:  http://www.growthtrac.com/artman/publish/printer-665.php

Saturday, July 7, 2012

#24: A Garden of Graduates

            As our daughter was approaching graduation this spring, we decided to give her a graduation party. We had an open-air dinner buffet out in our yard amidst blooming flowers  with games set up around the property and the swimming pool open for those brave enough to dive in for the first swim of the season. I gave away devotions for the graduates as favors and tomato plants  to the adults attending the party--mostly teachers and parents of other students. Tomato plants may seem like an unusual party favor, but they were given as a metaphor to say something more than just "enjoy fresh tomatoes." This is the essay I gave them to go with their tomato plants:

 A Garden of Graduates

"Here before you is a selection of tomato plants. Most of them were grown from seed which I ordered after reading in Texas Gardener about the best varieties to grow in Texas. A few were bought as plants because I couldn’t find the seed. These varieties are supposed to be able to withstand the Texas heat and be good producers. Some of the seeds were difficult to find, but I was delighted when they finally arrived. I planted them in pots of the best soil and gave all of them the same amount of water, fertilizing them with Miracle Grow after they sprouted. Once they were a few inches high, I moved them out into direct sunlight where they could grow stronger. I transplanted them into bigger pots as they grew. When damaging winds or hail was in the forecast, I was sure to move my tender plants back under shelter until the storm passed. Now these tomato plants are ready to bloom and bear fruit.
            How like these tomato plants are our graduating children. Some of us grew our children from our own seed, and others were adopted, but we love and care for all of them.  Just as I selected the soil, we also chose where to plant our children so that they could learn and grow in a nurturing environment and become strong. We chose which schools we thought would be best for them and what churches would teach them spiritual truth. We have fed and sheltered our offspring and protected them as best as we could from the storms that might harm them. We fertilized them with faith,  so that now that faith permeates every part of them. We have given them roots—roots that will keep them grounded and help them not to fall when the winds blow. We have tried to give them what they need to be prepared to bloom and bear fruit.
            Now these tomato plants are ready to be transplanted into bigger pots. If I leave them in the small pots, they will become root-bound, and their growth will be stunted. They may bloom, but they will not bear much fruit. They will eventually be choked to death.
            Our seniors are ready for transplant also. They have been in the sheltered environment of their school where they have been well-watered and fed to prepare them to move on to the next phase of their lives. These great young men and women are poised to be transplanted to an environment where they may grow even taller and stronger, bloom beautifully, and produce the fruit that God has planned for them. But each of them will bear different fruit, because they are each given different gifts, genetics, and abilities.
            These tomato plants look very much the same right now, but they are different varieties. In fact, some are small, some medium, and some large. Some will be orange, others pink, red, or yellow. They have names such as “Flamme’” (a 3 ounce orange French salad tomato),  “Sun Gold Hybrid” (a bright orange, sugary cherry type that grows in long clusters), “Momotaro” ( a pink, sweet, Japanese medium tomato that is perfectly smooth with no blemishes), “German Giant” ( a huge deep pink  heirloom that can grow as large as 2 pounds), “Persimmon” ( which is a beautiful golden orange that is an average of 5 inches in diameter), “Champion II VFNT Hybrid” ( a luscious red sandwich tomato with high yields of large, meaty fruit), and Celebrity (a highly-productive, flavorful All- American with good disease resistance.)
            Our graduates are like these tomato plants. They are of different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. They are going to produce wondrous fruit in their futures. In their day to day lives now they look much the same, especially in their school uniforms or in their graduation gowns. But God has given each one his or her own unique abilities and gifts. We have the privilege of watching them as they leave their school and the shelter of our homes and of standing in amazement as they become what God has intended for them to be. We are blessed to be their parents and teachers.
            I encourage you parents and teachers to select a tomato plant and take it home. Plant it in a sunny spot, either in the ground or a large pot, water and fertilize it, give it support (such as a stake or a large tomato cage), and watch what happens. I am not telling you which variety you are getting, so it will be a surprise for you when your plant starts bearing fruit. You just have to have the faith that the fruit is going to be wonderful, just as we have faith that what we have invested in our kids will come to fruition.
            Our children may also surprise us. They are remarkable. As they are poised to enter the realm of a higher education or to start a job or a family, we may pray for them, support them, and continue to love them, but we cannot produce fruit for them. They are who they are, and they will produce from what is within them. We pray that they will glorify God in their choices. Congratulations to our seniors for their accomplishments. And, to you parents and teachers, “Well done, good and faithful servant!Matthew 25:23"

English Standard Version (©2001)
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 
 John 15:16

Monday, January 23, 2012

#23 Letting Go and Moving On: God's Special Delivery

     I have started writing several times since Thanksgiving but didn't seem to have the drive to finish a single blog. If you, kind reader, have read my blogs in the past, you will know I am seldom short on words. Lately, though, I have been pregnant with thoughts but unable to deliver in text--until now.
     It's odd at times how a particular theme emerges in different places at the same time. For me, this new year is one of expectancy. It is pregnant with change. Our daughter has started her last semester of high school and expects to graduate this spring. In the fall she plans to leave for college, and we will have an empty nest. For the first time in thirty-six years, I will not be actively mothering a child in my home! How will I do that? What am I to do with myself? I will miss her so very much.
     I work in a field where I help people deal with change. Too much change in someone's life, too much stress, and he is likely to become ill. That illness might be depression or cancer or something else, but stress weakens a body's immunity. There is treatment for depression, and it might include medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and other things. It won't work, however, if the patient refuses to use the tools and the treatment that she is given.
     I visited with such a woman only recently. She is desperate to be rid of her pain and to change her circumstances in life, but she is not desperate enough to do what is necessary to get better.  She won't use much of the counsel she has been given, is inconsistent with attending therapy sessions, and only half-heartedly takes her medication. She's not made the lifestyle and diet changes that have been recommended to her. Additionally, she refuses to let go of the past and remove herself from destructive relationships in her current life. She languishes in lethargy and is stuck in the mire that is partly of her own making. Only by using the tools that have been given to her and by letting go will she be able to take hold of  healing and the future that God has in store for her.
     I felt frustrated myself as I came home after work that day and prepared to travel to a meeting where I would be helping to develop educational materials for physicians. What would it take to be able to get this patient, and others like her, to see her situation differently, to see it from God's perspective? How could I persuade her to lay down her burden, to empty her pockets of the bitterness and insecurities that are weighing her down, and to open her arms to receive the lifeline that God is offering her?  I didn't have a good answer for myself, and, having decided that a good shake or a whack upside the head was not a compassionate option for a Psychiatrist, I talked instead to my husband and to my God, Who is, after all, the Great Healer and Changer of hearts. I was able to let it go for a few days and to get ready for my weekend travel.
     Developing a new educational module for physicians involves exhaustive review of the scientific literature on the topic, a collaborative meeting of the panel designing the module, and composition and review of the content. As so often happens, I learned several new things from my study of the articles in our review of the subject of physician fatigue. The material intrigued me and dismayed some of the others at our meeting., as much will have to be done before the culture of medicine changes to address the problem of fatigue in health-care workers.
     You may not be aware that physicians in training have very strenuous schedules and have historically stayed up every other or every third night to be "on call" in the hospitals where they work. For me, at Baylor Hospital twenty years ago, call was every third night. That meant working thirty-six hours at a time, with twelve hours off after that shift, another twelve on and twelve off, then a repeat of the thirty-six hour shift. It was exhausting for me and difficult for both me and my family. It was after that internship year that my husband left, and I became the single parent of three children.
     Because of the high incidence of medical errors, the high rate of motor vehicle fatalities, and the risk of injury to themselves and to patients after physicians have worked extended shifts, guidelines have been put into place that now limit the amount of time that  resident physicians may continually be on duty. However, no such limits exist for physicians already out of training and in practice. They still run the risk of decreased mental alertness, more medical errors, and worsening health problems if they practice in a constant state of fatigue.
     What I learned in my research is that those who work the night shift are not just sleep-deprived and fatigued. They also suffer an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and even miscarriage. The artificial light at night affects the human system in such a way that it suppresses melatonin production, increases cortisol, and even suppresses the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin. Thus, those who work night shifts are fatter, sicker,  and more stressed than those who work the day shift! I had always wondered why so many of the employees in the hospital in the middle of the night were obese and had erroneously assumed that perhaps they chose the night shift to hide from the world. Now I know that working during the night, when our normal circadian rhythm tells us we should be asleep, contributes to weight gain and subsequent health problems! I wonder what effect the dissemination of this research information will have on those who work night shifts and develop health problems. Will they take the initiative to use the information as motivation for change, choose to work a day-shift,  and improve their health?
     I also wonder how many of us keep trying to work during the night instead of in the light of day spiritually? Could we be spiritually sick because of it? I think so.
     After my meeting with the physicians, I boarded a plane for Houston where I met my married daughter and attended a conference taught by Beth Moore over the weekend. The meeting was for those who had participated in Bible memory over the last year as part of a group called "Siestas".  Beth spoke from 2 John and talked to us about how we may lose what we have worked for. She cited 2 John 8, which reads,
"Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward."
     Beth explained that the way to get back, or to prevent losing, ground in our Christian life is to walk in the light we are given by God and to abide in His presence. 2 John 6 states, "And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it." Beth emphasized that "walk" here means " to abide". Abiding, however, is not just standing still. Neither is it moving backward or running ahead, says Beth. We are not to live in the past and hold onto it or to rush impulsively ahead of God. Instead, we are to walk with Him.
"And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left." Isaiah 30:21 ESV
     Strangely, though I know with God there are no coincidences,  some of the scripture I learned this year for Siesta Scripture Memory were about walking with the Lord. For me, I take these verses to be about both my physical dependence on God to guide me, because of my vision problem, and also about my spiritual journey with Him.

     "For Thou dost light my lamp;
     the Lord my God illuminates my darkness.
     For by Thee I can run upon a troop,
     and by my God, I can leap over a wall.
     As for God, His way is blameless;
     The word of the Lord is tried;
     He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
     For Who is God, but the Lord?
     And Who is a Rock, except our God?
     The God Who girds me with strength 
     and makes my way blameless,
     He makes my feet like hinds' feet,
     and sets me upon high places.
     He trains my hands for battle,
     so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
     Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation,
     and Thy right hand upholds me,
     and Thy gentleness makes me great.
     Thou dost enlarge my steps under me,
     and my feet have not slipped."
     Psalm 18:28-36 

    That word was affirmed to me this morning as I listened to our guest preacher, Jim Dennison, speak about living the Spirit-filled life. He spoke of Ephesians 5:18, which commands us to be filled with the Spirit, and also about Pentecost, as described in Acts, where those present saw the magnificent power of the Holy Spirit, and thousands came to know Jesus. Jim noted that to be filled with the Spirit of God, we must receive Him in salvation,  daily depend on God's guidance and strength, be cleansed from anything that hinders the Spirit, and continually ask God to control and empower us. He also pointed out that our relationship with God is our everything, not just a hobby.
     Even our Bible study class this morning impressed upon me the message that God was telling me through the commonality of my week's experiences. Our study was from 1 Samuel 1 where the story of Hannah, one of Elkanah's two wives, is told. Although Hannah was loved,  she had no children, while the other wife Peninnah had several children and "provoked" Hannah until she wept.  "So it was year after year, when Hannah went up to the Lord's house, Peninnah provoked her; so she wept and did not eat." (v 7, AMP) Her husband set aside double portions of meat for Hannah, yet she would not eat. He asked her why she was weeping, why she didn't eat, and why she was downhearted. 1 Samuel 1:10 states, "In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord." Verse 12 tells us that she "kept on praying", and, in her prayers, she promised God that if she conceived, she would give the child to Him. She was eventually noticed, while praying silently, by Eli, the priest, who initially thought she was drunk. He, however,  learned the truth from Hannah's own lips: "I am a woman oppressed in spirit"..."I have poured out my soul before the Lord." (v.15). Eli tells her, "Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him." (v 17) Having laid her burden down, Hannah left, ate, "and her face was no longer sad." (v. 18) The next morning she worshiped the Lord. After she returned home to Ramah, Hannah's prayer was answered, as she became pregnant with Samuel, who went on to become the last judge of Israel and to prepare the way for their first king, Saul.
     The story of Hannah reminds me of the patient I saw recently. She too wants something to change in her life. Yet, she is unwilling to let go of her past and release her bitterness. She holds on to relationships that are destructive out of her fear of being alone. Because her heart and hands are already filled with things of no value, there is no room for God to put something else in those places. How can He fill a heart already full of bitterness? How can He put a new, God-given relationship into the hand holding on to an ungodly one?
    As a Psychiatrist, I think that Hannah was most likely depressed. She was grieved over not being able to bear children. Her refusal to eat meat may have added to her depression, as the body needs the amino acids in protein in order to manufacture neurotransmitters. Hannah's malnourishment most likely contributed to her infertility as well. It is well-known that those with eating disorders or who are underweight may stop having menstrual periods and ovulating. They become unable to conceive as their bodies are trying to conserve energy for survival. I myself need about fifty to sixty grams of protein daily, as calculated for my body type, and that is equivalent to eight ounces of meat. To get that same amount of protein from beans, I would need to eat five measuring cups full--over a quart! Fortunately, I eat meat regularly, and neither malnutrition nor infertility has been my particular burden. I do, however, feel compassion for those who are not able to bear children of their own.
     My compassion for Hannah, however, only goes so far. She is portrayed as a poor, pitiful thing in some of the writings about her--a victim of scorn and verbal abuse from the other, fruitful wife. But, perhaps Hannah became her own victim, as a consequence of some of her choices. Her husband, Elkanah, loved Hannah. He was also a Godly man, who "would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh.." (v 3) He worried about Hannah and suggested to her that she eat, and Hannah refused. She didn't listen to the counsel of her husband. When he invited her to talk about her problems, his questions went unanswered. Instead, Hannah remained in misery for years. Yet, Hannah finally did eat and drink at Shiloh (the place of worship), prayed to the Lord there, and unburdened her heart to the priest. It was only when she obeyed the wishes of her husband (whom God gave her as protector and counsel),  and after she made her request to the Lord and shared her grief with the priest that Hannah got better and was able to bear children.
     Yes, "the Lord remembered her" (v. 19), but Hannah also remembered the Lord. After years of bitterness and weeping, she decided to submit to the wish of her husband and to eat. She decided to go to Shiloh and worship God, in spite of her circumstances. And, she not only prayed to God, she "continued praying". She was finally able to leave her bitterness at the temple and accept the peace Eli pronounced to her. He made her no promises, yet she left the temple with "her face no longer sad." She was healed, spiritually and physically, when she let go of what was hindering her.
        What do we need to let go of? As discovered in our research for the educational module, some of our physicians and hospitals are holding on to the old way of training physicians. They want to keep the residents and interns on duty for extended periods of time in spite of the evidence that such practices are potentially dangerous to both the physicians and their patients. The doctors in established practices want to continue their custom of taking call for an entire weekend and then presenting for work on Monday in a state of fatigue, when all the evidence points to a need to change the old ways. Even choosing not to work a night shift, and, instead, working during the daytime could help some health-care workers who have developed the health problems associated with bright light exposure at night. They just have to choose to live their lives differently, to let go of a destructive way of doing things, and to take hold of a more healthful lifestyle.
     What, I wonder, do I need to let go of and leave with God?  Am I holding on to these last few months of having my daughter at home while dreading the days ahead when she will be gone? Am I scared of not having her to call on when I need help in the darkness? Yes, I have to admit these feelings. Yet, might I let go of the old role of "active mothering" so that I may take hold of what God has in store for me? Might I live each day in the present, instead of borrowing grief from the future? Am I able to trust God for His help and allow Him to "be a light to me"? (Micah 7:8). I believe He will help me to do just that.
       Though I will miss my daughter terribly, I am anticipating the freedom this fall of going out any night of the week that I choose--even on a school night. What a concept! We might even decide, on the spur of the moment, to go away for the weekend, and we won't need  to think of who will watch the kids! Maybe we will take up ballroom dancing again., or bird-watching, or skydiving! Who knows?
     I think I know the answer to that, and I need to trust Him--to walk on with Him through this year and the next. Like Hannah after she let go of her bitterness and put her future in God's hands, the year is pregnant with possibilities, holding the promise of change. I am looking forward now to God's special delivery.