Do you know why I called you Hannah?
In 1989, it was not a popular name. I should know. For a few months in 1988, among my many duties as a small town newspaper reporter in southwest Connecticut, I would often spend my Saturday mornings driving the circuit from the library to the community center to the ball fields, taking pictures of children — top classroom readers, girl scouts, cubbies, T-ball champs. Every child in the community who participated in any event or organization was granted a picture in The Journal.
My editor’s philosophy was that the job of the daily city papers was to provide readers with all the bad news from the international, national, state and local fronts, but the glorious task of the local weekly was to brighten days with inspiring images and uplifting stories — even if it was occasionally necessary to run a series on crime or political nepotism. So, in addition to coverage elsewhere in the paper of the child with the best drawing of the police dog — or whatever preciousness I could find — the front-page-across-the-fold photo each week had to aim for the smile factories, the tear ducts, the gut. We ran photos of serene sunsets, quaint New England town squares or rustic, old farmhouses, quirky country residents, and film canister after film canister of cute kids.
Taking so many photos of children and logging their names was the research I’d eventually need; it was my own little survey of popular names from 1980 through 1988. For girls there were plenty of Jessicas, Ashleys, Jennifers, Amandas and Sarahs. No Hannahs. In fact, Hannah didn’t even show up nationwide in the top 50 baby names until 1990.
It was also not because of various 1980s Hollywood references, such as actress Daryl Hannah or the movie Hannah and Her Sisters. I politely declined those suggestions (today, people don’t even remember them) while rather impolitely my brain was inquiring, “Seriously? If I were to use an entertainment association, wouldn’t it more likely be a literary one such as Emma or Jane, Katarina or Charlotte, than a late 20th-century connection?”
Neither popularity nor celebrity provided the inspiration.
In 1989, as you know, Hannah, I was pregnant and unmarried in Maryland, my journalism career abandoned back on my desk in Connecticut. Now I was on the receiving end of questions and comments, and the ones I’d been fielding covered a lot of ground. Initially there were efforts by my bosses to convince me I could still do my insanely busy job and be a mother, sneering attacks by a pro-choice employee who didn’t take kindly to my decision not to abort, and denials by friends that they were in any way responsible for my safety or care. Yeah, for real. That was back in Connecticut.
In Maryland, an older church lady assured me that Rahab had a place in Jesus’s lineage so there was room for me as well. I think that was well-intentioned. And most of my old college friends gave me a pass. When one accidentally got me on the phone instead of your uncle Ben, he hemmed and hawed his way through an uncomfortable few minutes, before he finally said, “I guess you feel like you’ve been dropped. I think it’s because we don’t know what to say.” Then and there, I decided I would never let fear of words or being tongue-tied stop me from providing a listening ear to others in distress.
The winter days were lengthening. A Bible Study Fellowship class on Matthew escorted me deeply into God’s word where I resonated with Mary and explored the distinguishing work of regeneration and grace through her Son. A phrase from 1 Samuel 2:30 that was highlighted as a cross reference became my verse for those many weeks: “Those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” Lord, let the work you’ve done in me produce honoring worship and glory due back to you, I prayed every day.
My preparations for your arrival were moving along nicely: labor classes, vitamins, regular trips to the consignment shop for crib linens. But I didn’t have names picked out, and this was beginning to nag at me. One day, I was listening to Christian radio, and Dr David Jeremiah was preaching on the “remembrances” passages of the Old Testament, narratives about the point in the life of a man or woman of God where it seems as if they are at their lowest, or up against an inhuman challenge. My ears perked up as he underlined a phrase repeated in each passage.
- Genesis 8:1, But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.
- Genesis 19:29, So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.
- Genesis 30:22, Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.
- 1 Samuel 1:19, They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her.
(Did you see it there? It was the same passage you referenced recently in your own blog post.)
God remembers his people, individually, like Noah, Abraham, Rachel and Hannah, and He remembers us corporately.
- Exodus 2:24, And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
- Psalm 98:3, He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
God’s remembrances in this life work out as His best providences for us. They transform us into the likeness of Christ in our individual circumstances, and His remembrances echo eternal promises and benefits, reflecting His character. He is a God who has a special relationship with a special people whom He will not forget, who have been redeemed as a people and who are being prepared to stand as the bride of Christ at the wedding feast.
Isn’t it incredible that while the Father remembers me as His child, because I am in Christ, none of the sins I have committed will be held against me as a record of wrongs with payment due (Ezekiel 33:16, Hosea 2:7)? My wedding garb is white as snow. Jesus has paid it all. If merely waiting for the day to be honored by Him is my lot until I am remembered, I thought that early spring morning, then I have found my resting place.
That day I chose my name for you because I knew without a doubt that God’s remembrance and abiding love rested on me, and I was making my request known to Him that, one day, in His mercy and goodness, He would cause it to reside on you, and that you would KNOW it. God does remember, because it does and you do, which you wrote about here with eloquence and clarity.
And then, just the other day, you posted this on your blog:
But I am not without hope. God is teaching me to hold the finite, human, godly, earthly desire to raise children with a loose grip. He spent the last several weeks of summer prying my fingers away from this desire, this wish I held onto for almost two years, preparing me for when He would lift it completely out of my hands. And while fostering and adopting are still a possibility, for now, God is telling us to wait. My desire is lessened and the possibility of that desire ever becoming reality is uncertain.
So I will wait on the Lord, like my namesake Hannah, and pray that He will constantly remind me of the finiteness of my own desire for children and the infiniteness of His salvation, grace, and being. If all He asks of me is to let go of my deepest earthly desire in order to serve, worship, and love Him better, I am blessed beyond words.
And God remembered Hannah.
Psalm 136:26, “It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever.”