The wife was still young. But their nine years of marriage since she was sixteen hadn't produced a child. A few years earlier a pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Now, pregnant once more, she was apprehensive.
The day arrived when she again showed the symptoms that had signaled her previous loss. Full of longing and fear, she went to her physician. The only answer he could give was, "Try to relax. Worry is the worst thing for you."
Telling the woman not to worry was a bit like telling a horse not to whinny or telling a maple tree not to have sap. Nervousness and anxiety had been her battle since she was small. What could she do to settle the churning she felt inside?
Her focus landed on the Bible that had become part of her life. At times her heart was like parched earth literally drinking the words from its pages. She opened it to the story of a young wife named Hannah. Like her, Hannah had difficulty bearing children. Hannah's problem was heightened by living in a culture in which such circumstances were accompanied by suspicion of hidden faults in the life of the barren woman.
As the young wife read the Biblical account, she was touched by the promise Hannah made. Upon being blessed by God's high priest, she dedicated her as-yet-unborn son to the Lord. When the boy arrived, Hannah named him Samuel, which means, "Asked of God".
Could such a prayer be the answer to the worry pressing in upon the woman? She decided to risk it. "Lord," she prayed, "if you give me a son, I dedicate him to You." Relieved by the choice she made, her nerves settled and her symptoms went away. After that, she always believed she was carrying a boy, even though science at that time had provided them no way of finding out in advance.
When her son was born, she told her husband she wanted to name him Samuel, the middle name of the husband's father. It was agreed and the young couple set about the busy life of being parents.
Over the next several years three more children were born in the family. Their lives were full of challenges and joys mixed with occasional pain.
Samuel, the oldest, grew up not knowing anything about the origin of his name or his mother's prayer. He was a typical boy, making tree houses, playing in the fields and complaining about chores. By the time he reached adolescence, he was beginning a long season of rebellion which, no doubt, concerned his parents. He went out with young people whose lives were far different than those of his family. He did things his parents disapproved of. He distanced himself from anything to do with the faith he had learned growing up. When he did participate in church activities, it was usually so he could go out afterward with his friends. To put it simply, God was not on his radar screen.
Upon high school graduation, Samuel was busy making plans to attend a university near his home town.
Until something changed.
For a reason he couldn't begin to understand, Samuel changed his mind in the weeks after he received his diploma. He decided at the very last minute to apply for admission at a Christian college. He had never even been to the large city where the school was located. He previously even scoffed at the idea of such a place. But he leaped with excitement when he discovered he had been accepted.
Significant acts of his rebellion still continued as he began his studies. But, during his freshman spring semester, he was moved to get some things right with God as he attended a spiritual emphasis week. The well-know black pastor, Dr. E.V. Hill, was speaking and he challenged students who had doubts about their faith to get on their knees in the privacy of their rooms and draw an imaginary circle around them. Then pray until the doubt was out of the circle. Samuel was desperate enough to do just that. Everything didn't change overnight, but he at least settled the issue of his salvation.
That summer, Samuel went back to his small town with the beginnings of a genuine dedication to God. It was during the latter part of the summer that he attended the funeral of a friend's father. Mr. Price had been a humble man whose faith showed through as he endured the pain of severe, crippling arthritis. As Samuel sat in that small chapel, he listened to the taped music playing during the service. A beautiful tenor sang a comforting song of faith.
During that song, Samuel suddenly heard another voice speaking from somewhere deep within. "I am calling you to serve Me in the ministry," the Voice said. Samuel's reply was simple: "Yes."
Upon exiting the funeral service, the young man found his parents and told them what he had just experienced. With halting words, he described the deep inner sense of God's call to him.
"Son," my mother replied, "I have a story to tell you..."
And, for the first time, I heard the story of how I got my name.