Hearing God’s Call

“Mucca Curiosa in Toscana,” © 2018 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

Note to Other Bloggers: This week, my internet access will be “spotty.”  I promise to read and visit your blogs whenever I have good internet access.  But please forgive me if I am unable to respond immediately to your comments or your fantastic posts.  I hope to have a strong internet connection again by the weekend.  In the meantime, please know that I truly appreciate and thank God for you and your amazing blogs!  ❤

© 2018 Lynn Abbott

One morning over breakfast, at the age of 14, I announced that I had decided what I wished to do with my life: “I am going to be a single missionary nurse in Irian Jaya…”

I suspect my parents suppressed smiles.

You see, I was the kid with severe environmental and food allergies.  Obviously, living in a primitive jungle wasn’t the most practical plan I’d ever proposed.

However, I truly admired a beautiful young missionary who had committed herself to just that–serving God as a nurse in Irian Jaya.  I wished to follow in her footsteps.

I never imagined that because of my own health issues, I might be more burden than help.  And so I passionately began to pursue my dream. I began by volunteering at our local hospital.  All seemed to be on track.

Then, I hit high school biology.  And with it, a huge wall.

Apparently, I am severely allergic to Formaldehyde.  Dissecting frogs and other specimens therefore proved problematic.

My dream collapsed.  My heart broke. How in the world would I ever get through nursing school?  How could I serve Abba if I didn’t?

For several years, my parents patiently prayed while I side-stepped the obvious path…

And years later, when my son began a similar journey, I smiled and prayed as well. He, too, looked for his place in this world, but initially, missed the obvious.

I wanted to tell him. But I knew from personal experience that we individually must hear and heed the call of God.

For several years, my parents patiently prayed while I side-stepped the obvious path…

Evidently, Eli the priest knew this well. His charge met Yahweh in a dramatic way. Yet, Eli had recognized God’s calling of the boy from the very beginning.

He likely recalled a godly woman’s prayer and his own misjudgement of her.  Actually, the memory of it probably haunted Eli long after the event.  (1 Samuel 1:9).

Of course, we know that  on that day, a woman named Hannah begged God for a son.  And Eli had mistaken her great grief for drunkenness (1 Samuel 1:12-13).

It’s easy to see how Eli initially misunderstood her behavior. Her lips moved and yet, she did not pray audibly that day in the temple.  In anguish and grief, she promised that if her petition were granted, she would give her child to Yahweh for life-time service.

And Abba blessed her (1 Samuel 1:19-21).

Several years later, Hannah arrived at the temple with her little boy.  I imagine she boldly approached the priest who had borne witness to her previous heartbreak and who had ultimately blessed her (1 Samuel 1:17).  Essentially, she said, “Remember me?”

She had come to fulfill her vow: “So now I give him to the LORD.  For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD,” (I Samuel 1:28).

From that day forward, little Sam lived with Eli.  He became a “helper” in the temple.  Indeed, Eli and Hannah both knew Samuel had been set apart for God.  It was obvious.  But I think Samuel may have wondered about his place in the world.

As he grew, he may have day-dreamed about the variety of occupations associated with the temple. What would he be when he grew up?  His childlike faith and curiosity likely led him to explore the possibilities…

Would he be a temple musician?  Would he craft beautiful art or gold cups for use in God’s house?  Where would he ultimately serve? Would he remain by Eli’s side for all time?

All who knew Samuel observed his gifts. But Samuel had yet to discover his purpose.

To be sure. All too often, we are the last to recognize our God-given purpose.

Looking around us, we see vast possibilities; we may even admire and long for gifts that other people possess;  we seek to climb distant mountains instead of treading the paths immediately before us.

Perhaps, this is one of the reasons that Abba recorded Samuel’s story for us. I dunno.

All too often, we are the last to recognize our God-given purpose.

But when I read of Samuel’s God-encounter, I do know that I am reminded that  you and I are called to plant and harvest Abba’s grace right where we are.  Often, God has already placed me where he wishes me to serve.

As evening gave way to night, Eli’s young charge lay in the temple… tired after his long day of temple service.  Eli napped in his usual place.  Life followed a familiar routine.   Nothing unexpected ever happened.

Thus, Samuel did not suspect anything out of the ordinary when he heard a voice call:

“Samuel!”

Samuel ran to Eli to discover what might be required.

But Eli hadn’t called and so the aging priest responded as many parents do; he told Samuel to go back to bed.

But the boy returned three more times to ask if Eli had called.

I imagine that Eli shook the sleepy fog from his head just in time.

I Samuel 3:8 records, “Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.”

That’s right. God called Samuel right where he was.

For Samuel, the temple may not have seemed a glamorous place.  After all, it was home.   Sam had been faithful, but his tasks had never seemed particularly significant.

Yet, God called Samuel… right there; right then.  God planned Sam’s days even before he was born (Psalm 139:16).  And when the time was right, God spoke.

Eli confirmed God’s calling.

Thus, when Samuel heard Abba’s voice once more, he replied, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel not only served but he both observed and listened. And he evidently did both well. His gifts seemed simple enough… even rather ordinary.  Yet, such gifts uniquely equipped Samuel to become God’s prophet.

You and I are called to plant and harvest Abba’s grace right where we are.

And he began his new work the following morning: upon Eli’s insistence and encouragement, Samuel delivered his first prophecy to Eli.

Without a doubt, God placed and equipped a temple boy.

Simple as that.

Sometimes I go looking for grand horizons.  I seek flashy tasks or ponder great works.

I forget that Abba spoke directly to a boy who quietly served an old, disheartened priest.

But Samuel shows me the joy of serving with small acts of grace and love.  In fact, there is nothing better–nothing that brings greater joy–than both hearing and responding to Abba’s call.

As I traveled last Spring, I spotted a single cow grazing near a farmhouse.  I quietly stepped away from our rental car and tip-toed toward the pasture; I didn’t wish to disturb that beautiful bovine.

But the cow knew her surroundings well; she heard my movement.  And she looked directly toward me.  A photo bomber?  Perhaps.

Nevertheless, she reminded me to remain on the alert, to listen and observe.  Even in my ordinary–maybe, especially in the ordinary–God calls me and then, directs my footsteps.

Yes, His Word is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” (Psalm 119:105).

I need only respond to Abba’s call as Samuel did…

“Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

And Sam served. Without fanfare.  Without glory. Yet, with great joy.

Yes,  Abba often calls with a gentle whisper.  His leading illuminates our ordinary.

And just as Samuel did, we will find significance when we accomplish small things with great grace and love.  Right here.  Right now.

It’s as simple as that.

“Whatever you, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,” ~Colossians 3:23