We walk quietly into church, the cold clinging to us like an extra layer. The sun shines through the stained glass, bright yet somehow ineffective. What will it take to warm us? What will it take to usher us through this cold season, this long patch of darkness? The older two children choose which row to sit in, and we pile in after them: my wife, my four older children, and me. Our two youngest are in the nursery.
Sam, nine years old, looks at the bulletin and grins. “There I am,” he hisses, pointing at one of the verses that will make up the day’s reading.
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days, the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions (1 Samuel 3:1).
“There you are,” I say, patting his head, putting my hand on his shoulder, and pulling him close to me.
“May the Lord be with you,” the priest says.
“And also with you,” we reply.
“Let us pray.”
* * * * *
These days, the needs of the world—the needs of my neighbor—overwhelm me. Here in this small city where we live, we are surrounded by people who need: there are homeless asking for money at various street corners; our refugee friends need companionship and better-paying jobs and someone to help them go through their mail; the guys across the street need a place to stay. And then there are the state and national headlines calling for my attention and my action. Does even a day go by when I am not pulled this way and that, the world needing my support, my denunciation, my outrage?
I cannot do everything. But I can do something, and I think that is the key.
There are always too many things to do and never nearly enough time in which to do them all.
And then these words: “Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ ‘My son,’ Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down’” (1 Samuel 3:4–6).
We know there’s a voice out there calling us, but in the noise we are distracted, and we do not know what to do, where to turn, whom to answer.
I cannot do everything. But I can do something, and I think that is the key: I must not do simply anything, but instead, I must stay dedicated to the thing I have been called to do.
“Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening’” (1 Samuel 3:7–10).
* * * * *
“There I am,” my son said, grinning.
There we are, I realize today. There we are, listening. There we are, finding direction. There we are, waiting. There we are, as the Lord comes to us, calling our names yet again. There we are, listening.