Earlier this year, I read a book by Ann Voskamp called Waymaker: Finding The Way to the Life You’ve Always Dreamed Of. The tag line seems unattainable. Maybe even self helpish at first look. If you follow Ann, however, then you know that the way to that life is by giving away your life to a very present God, often through a time of suffering and sacrifice.
Ann is a woman that I admire. During a handful of dark and chaotic years, I clung to her words. I even kept of few lines of her book The Broken Way in my wallet. I remember connecting with a friend who was suffering in similar ways. She also felt connected to Ann’s words.
Ann’s most recent book has a small thread of the story of Hannah. Just a few paragraphs have stayed with me. Ann’s words are the inspiration for this post, How to Give A Dream Back.
The Story of Hannah
Hannah is our infertile sister with a husband who loved her dearly. As was the Jewish custom, families, including Hannah’s, annually traveled to Shiloh as a pilgrimage. Shiloh held the tabernacle which was the earthly dwelling place of God for worship and sacrifice. In the Torah, sacrifice, or Korban, is different from our modern understanding of the word.
We think of sacrifice as giving up something of value for the sake of something else that is regarded as more important or worthy. Korban, or Jewish sacrifice, was about making an offering to draw near to God. Korban was a way to move into a closer relationship with God. It was an expression of gratitude and joy, and it was a path to remove obstacles caused by sin.
Jewish pilgrims offered a sacrifice to God and then sat down together for a communal meal with the remainder of the sacrifice. The meal included a time of worship and singing and exemplified a commitment to justice and ethics. All of this was difficult for Hannah because her husband’s second wife used the pilgrimage as an opportunity to taunt her infertility. The second wife had birthed multiple children to their husband.
This particular year, Hannah slipped away to the temple steps to pray to God with tears. She poured out her heart asking God not to forget her and grant her a son. Her prayer included a promise to God. I’ve included her prayer in three translations so that you will find one to connect with.
Lord of Armies, if you will take notice of your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.1 Sam 1:11 CSB
Oh God of the Angel Armies, if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I will set him apart for a life of holy discipline.1 Sam 1:11MSG
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime.1 Samuel 1:11 NLT
You can read the whole story in 1 Samuel 1 and 2.
Who does that?
In her book, Ann says of Hannah –
Why ask God to make a way – and then give back to the WayMaker that very dream that He made a way to? Who does that?
Who does that?
I stayed there for a while.
Who does that?
Honestly, who does do that?
Ann goes on to say,
Someone who doesn’t want anything to get in the way between her and God.
Imagine Hannah in her pain and desperation. She had probably asked God every year, for years, for a child. This particular year was different. Perhaps she embraced Korban in a way she hadn’t before. She offered herself with tears and she offered to give back the one thing she so deeply desired – a child.
We all have intimately asked God for something we deeply desire. We want for all kinds of reasons. Some of our reasons are pure and honest like Hannah’s Korban prayer. Sometimes we can mix up the dream with other things. Perhaps in past years, Hannah’s desire for a child was more about avenging the second wife and less about glorifying God. Perhaps her prayers were more about elevating her appearance in the community by becoming a mother instead of giving herself fully to a God that loves her as she is.
When we deeply desire something good, the gift can get wrapped up in the draws and measures of this world. We can shrink in the trap of comparison like Hannah may have. We can look to appearances for security like Hannah may have. I don’t judge Hannah and I won’t judge us.
A Dream Revisited
God has given me a desire to share myself through words. Upon the grandiose standards of today, well, you know what that looks like. Books on shelves. Podcasts. Social media notoriety.
If I travel back in time, over the years of this gift in my life, it has been about deep community, encouragement and sharing from the heart.
The dream has a mission statement:
Bloom where you are planted. Grow in the quiet of God’s spirit. Look deeply in to see the needs of others. Write and rest and be with your people.
The dream of sharing words plays out very well in my tightly knit bible study community, with local women, extended friends from past and present and on the blog. Less so on social media or at speaking engagements. The dream plays out well where God intends it to play out well.
My dream, in its pure form, is not mine. The dream lives within me as a gift to share with others. In that sharing, I have the honor of glorifying the Father. I feel joy and gratitude. This is Korban.
In pure form, gifts or dreams exist without reference to comparison or appearances. Gifts grow out of Korban prayer. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us. If comparison or appearances or whatever “extras” you struggle with stand between you and your gift, go back to Shiloh. Take the pilgrimage in prayer. Pour out your heart and soul on the temple steps. Remember Hannah. Let her be your courage as you lay down your desires before God.
Remember, it’s hard to give back dreams wherein we have written a lot of our own footnotes. It’s freeing to give back the dreams that He actually gave us.
Coffee with a Friend Revisited
Last week, I met a newish friend for coffee for our second annual meet up. She understands what it is to be a person with a dream. She shared that dreamers tend to want the dream to change the world because passion fuels the dream. We both quietly acknowledged that such things as doubt and disappointment are real things when it comes to dreams and passion. She kindly shared that my dreams have a valuable thumbprint right here in the space that matters; beyond what I am able to see.
That is the kind of dream you and I can legitimately give away. The kind that matter close to home and beyond what we are able to see.
The giving away may not make total sense in the way of our modern understanding of sacrifice. But we can in the way of Korban.
Sacrifice: Giving up something of value for the sake of something else that is regarded as more important or worthy.
Korban: Making an offering to draw near to God. A way to move into a closer relationship with God. An expression of gratitude and joy.
In the Korban way, we can give our dreams back to God. In the Korban way, we can be women who don’t let anything get in the way between us and God.
Thank you Ann.
I can’t wait to meet you Hannah.
- Is there an author or speaker that you admire? Who and why?
- What has been a common thread in your life when it comes to gifts or dreams that God has given you? Have you freely given back your dream to God? Why or why not? If not, look for verses that give you courage to give your dream back.
- Do you have a dream? Does your dream have a mission statement? If not, ask God to inspire you to write one now.
- Do you relate to Hannah? Have you ever cried out to God for something? How did God answer you?
- Think about the differences between the modern word sacrifice and Korban. I feel a deeper sense of intimacy around receiving from God and giving back to Him. How does the newfound meaning impact you?
- Have you had coffee or tea with a friend lately? If not, please do.