At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, "Here I am. You called me." Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, "Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening." When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, "Samuel, Samuel!" Samuel answered, "Speak, for your servant is listening." 1 Samuel 3:7-10
When I was a young child falling asleep in bed, I overheard a party with lots of people laughing and a voice calling my name repeatedly. I was absolutely confident that my parents were having a party while I was asleep and were taunting me by calling my name, so I quickly ran out of the room to find my parents… asleep in their bed. As I tapped on my mom’s shoulder to wake her up, I told her that I was upset that she was having a party and calling my name. I’ll never forget her response: “Katie, we’re sound asleep. There is no party here. It sounds like God might be trying to talk to you. This time go back to your room and if you hear it again, say, ‘Here I am, God. I’m listening.’” I went back to my room, fully ready for God to tell me of some amazing plans He had for my life. The voices never returned. Meh. I probably just had too much ice cream that night.
While that night was not the life changing moment I expected it to be at the time, it has never left my mind. I remember returning to my bed with a sense of fear. What will He ask of me? What if it’s too hard? I remember sitting in my bed afraid of the silence, afraid that I’d hear His voice again.
As an adult, I haven’t changed much. I still turn on the radio on the car ride home, even when I can feel the gentle nudge in my soul to be silent and listen. I still turn my eyes from the pain in the world, afraid to open my ears to the call of the needy. I hesitate to say “Here I am” to friends and family in a time of struggle. What if they’ll ask for too much? I can’t even answer the phone when it rings! “Please, give me a few minutes to prepare myself to expend energy!”
It’s easier for me to turn on the noise of this world so that I can stay in control. Maybe you don’t struggle with control like I do, but it’s a source of sincere temptation. Georges Bernanos once described sin as that patterned way of being in which we remain living at the surface. I know the second I say, “Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will,” all control is lost. I’m plunging beneath the surface and letting Him in. And when I allow God to come into my life, He will disrupt it in a beautifully, messy way.
When I stop to think about it, the struggle I have with saying, “Here I am, Lord,” is the lack of boundaries involved. At that moment, He gets my whole life. I have always struggled with the boundary of my home and possessions. I was perfectly content serving God outside of my home, but inviting him inside the home was more than I thought I could handle. Foster kids in my living room? No, thank you. Giving away my hard-earned money? Doesn’t seem fair. Refugee donations littering my car? Not my cup of tea. But thankfully I love sunsets. And God likes to meet me in those sunsets and tug at my heart. And when I hear my name being called, my only reaction can be, “Here I Am, Lord. I’m listening.” I do not believe God calls us all to the same thing, but I do believe if we are silent long enough, we’ll be called to something outside of our comfort zone, outside of the boundaries we’ve created.
I’m convinced one of the main reasons Christians are not inviting God through the boundaries we have built around our comfortable lives is that we refuse to listen. We don’t consciously CHOOSE not to listen to God. But like my childhood (and adult) self, we are so afraid He might actually talk to us if we stop and listen. And the question we all have to come to grips with is, “What will he ask?” Henri Nouwen calls Silence “the furnace of transformation.” Due to a debilitating fear of transformation, we choose instead to move and not stop moving, to symbolically turn up the volume all around us so that we can’t hear the silence. Our fear allows our brains to wander into our worldly worries and To Do lists instead of repeating, “Here I Am, Lord.” Robert Sardello says it well, “Moments of quiet remind us that we have neglected the core of our being, and we cannot face the implications of this neglect. Anxiety enters. It’s better to keep running away from it. Without Silence, we are lost and cannot get still enough to find our way back.” For me, the word I choose to repeat in silence is ‘Present.’ Repeating that word reminds me of my goal: being present with God and inviting His presence through my created boundaries into my personal space.
If you’ve been afraid of saying, “Here I am,” to God, may I remind you of the overwhelming joy of giving up your control to follow Jesus? And if you feel ready to say, “Here I am,” but subconsciously are turning up the volume so that you don’t hear His call, choose silence and stillness this week. Or maybe a sunset. He always seems to get to me there. ;)
Sit quietly, and listen for a voice that will say, Be more silent. – Rumi