Now that we are in the new year. After the noise makers of midnight Jan 1, we experience silence. In the silence of these winter nights, we listen for the voice of our God to speak to us. Often it is hard to hear what is spoken in the silence. Sometimes we need a guide to help us listen. We are so busy speaking we forget how to listen. Samuel, a boy sleeping in the temple, had not learned how to listen to the voice of God. He heard a voice in the temple thinking it was the voice of his mentor he went to Eli. At first Eli didn’t realize it was God calling to the boy, but in time Eli realized it was God calling to the boy. Eli being older and more experienced was able to advise the boy on how to respond to the voice of God. Samuel needed a spiritual advisor to help him learn to listen and later to act upon the voice of God.
What Samuel experienced in the temple has been repeated over and over, we each can investigate our lives and remember the man or woman who helped us learn how to listen to the voice of God.
• Who have been your mentors? Who was the one who waited patiently for you to listen and respond to what was said? Was it a parent, teacher, clergy person, religious who patiently mentored you?
• Who was your Eli?Patient mentors are needed now as never before. The skill of listening is needed more than ever. So many need an open ear to hear and listen to the other.
Sometimes the mentoring takes the form of non-verbals.
In the gospel John points out to the disciples Jesus the Lamb of God. The disciples ask a simple question “where are you staying?” Jesus says come and see. They spend the day and come to know him by observation. It is not his words, but his life that appeals to them. Jesus uses Attraction rather than Promotion to gather his disciples. It is later that they hear and listen to his words, but it is first how Jesus spends his time that speaks to them. They come to trust his words after they see his life.
I am sure the same was true for Samuel and Eli. Samuel came to trust the judgment of Eli after spending time with him. When Eli gives him the words to speak to God Samuel trusts Eli and speaks the words so that he may listen to the words of God.
I like the words of Emerson, “What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you are saying.”
It is not always the words we listen to but the way the person is present. When sitting with someone who has experienced a loss, often words fail, but the warm hand holding of the other is what is most important. To simply listen is enough.
In this new year we may strive to imitate Samuel to listen more. Often people come to me and tell me that God is not responding to their prayer. The prayer may have been too one sided, I tell God what I want or need and I wait for God to respond. This is the vending machine approach to God. I put in my coin and wait for God to provide my gum ball. A better prayer may be to simply sit in the silence and listen for the voice of God. I may not receive what I want, but God may give me something greater than what I may ask for. The stance of Samuel, “Speak Lord for your servant is listening” is a stance of trust and openness. God will speak words of comfort or challenge, I simply need to show up, be quiet, and listen.
I a few short weeks we begin the season of Lent. We may want to begin listening to what God has to say to us. We, like the disciple look for the Christ and like Andrew we bring others to see and listen to Christ.