(Thinking about 1 Samuel 1:3-20)
Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, "Samuel! Samuel!"
And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." (1 Samuel 1:10)
I love it when Molly watches me so attentively. She did the same thing at her photo session last spring. "Look how she loves you, said the photographer's assistant. She must be a Mama's girl!"
But I fear the truth is Molly pays closest attention to me when she knows treats are in my pocket.
And in pondering the story of little Samuel, who heard God so clearly but did not know who he heard, I wonder if we don't all tend in Molly's direction, paying attention when it suits us rather than keeping an ear tuned to, an eye focused on God?
Samuel first thought he heard the voice of his human master, Eli, and he woke the old man up to offer his services. I do that, too, following the wrong voice, giving priority with good intentions but confused loyalties.
The great wonder of my early blogging days was connecting with other pastors who were also mothers. I rejoiced in knowing, and I don't mean this in the sense of schadenfreude, that others faced the same conflicts of interest I did. We willingly joined up in a kind of work that promotes scriptures about leaving your family behind, but we did it with babies on our hips or in our wombs. This way lies madness?
I find it's not much different with an older child. I'm struggling to find the right balance between appropriate maternal care and sufficient professional satisfaction and — here's the tricky part — actual attention to God. Where does God want me next? Why is Her voice not clearer? Why are His directions not plain? When will I get the kind of message Samuel received?
Of course the message he heard in the middle of the night frightened him:
Then the LORD said to Samuel, "See, I am about to do something in Israel that
will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his
house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity
that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not
be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever."
Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD.
Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. (1 Samuel 3:11-15)
Maybe we don't hear because we fear truly paying attention. Do we want to listen when the answer may not be what we would wish? I know I don't, even if in theory I say I will follow where I am led.
As I work out what's next, the things I want and the things that seem possible and the things I feel pretty sure the Spirit guides me to simply will not seem to line up, at least not yet. No amount of mental gymnastics on my part has brought me to a conclusion. I need help.
"Speak, for your servant is listening."