“The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” (1 Samuel 3:1)
It was years ago now. I was still living in Rock Island and found myself traveling a great deal — so much so that it was almost more ‘normal’ for me to be sleeping away from home than climbing the stairs to sleep in my second floor bedroom on 22nd Avenue. When I was home though, it was not unusual to have a certain dream. At least it seemed like a dream.
It was always in those first moments after I had drifted off to sleep. I would awake with a start, disoriented and convinced that I had a guest in my home. Only I was not prepared. For you see, I did not have guests often. And so my guest room was used as ‘storage’ — things were almost always piled on the single bed in there.
So there I would lie in my confusion, trying to sort out who it was who was there and as a result of my lack of hospitality, had no place to sleep. Eventually I would wake up enough to realize that it was, in fact, only a ‘dream.’
This happened more than once. It happened so many times, in fact that finally I began to share it with friends, who, though patient enough to hear me out as I described my ‘dream,’ could only shake their heads, as unable as I was to make sense of it.
This had been going on for some time before one friend suggested that I take it to my spiritual director. And so one Friday morning I did — describing once more this dream and my reaction to it. I can still see Sister Audrey leaning forward, listening intently. When I was finished she paused and said, “Well, I can’t say for sure, of course, but I can’t help but wonder if your guest is Jesus.”
To tell you the truth, at the time I was more than a little bit embarrassed. Of course, I couldn’t say for sure either, but if it WAS Jesus? Well, then clearly I was not making room — I was unprepared. And I was not proud of this.
Looking back now, I find I’m shaking my head at my reaction then. As if one could ever be fully prepared. More than that, what a wonder it is to think that perhaps Jesus would be so persistent in a way that I could sense it —- to get near to me. Too much of the time it seems as though ‘the word of the Lord is rare.’ If I was, in fact, the recipient of such an experience? Well wouldn’t that be something?
And so I listen in today as the boy Samuel is being summoned in the night — being called by name. Oh, I expect that together, you and I feel and completely understand his confusion for it was and still is a thing of wonder that God’s voice would be calling us in the night. And yet, for all of Eli’s family’s distance then from such a time when ‘the word of the Lord’ came more often, Eli still knew, somehow, that it was the Lord calling the boy and so he sent Samuel back with an appropriate response; “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Much as Sister Audrey did for me so long ago.
And yes, while the particulars are different, it would seem that God ‘calling’ me in the night is for much the same purpose He had with young Samuel so many generations ago. To be near to us. To make a home with us. To settle into our guest rooms — and more than that, into the center of our lives.
I stopped dreaming that particular ‘dream’ years and years ago. I’m not exactly certain why it came and went as it did. And I’m not altogether certain all that much changed in my life after that. Except ever since I’ve had a deeper sense of the possibility of God speaking. Even now. Even to me. Indeed, perhaps it is not so rare after all. And even more than that? I’ve never forgotten that unsettled feeling when I would first awaken wondering who my guest was. Ever since I have tried to pay attention to make sure there is room for Jesus…. in all those places Jesus seeks to make a home with me, with all of us.
- Have you ever had an experience like young Samuel? If so, did you recognize the God’s voice then? Did you, like me, have your own “Eli” who pointed you in the right direction?
- If you have had such an experience, what did you take from it? What was the message for you?
- Above, I have surely oversimplified the message given to Samuel so long ago. How might you ‘translate’ the ‘word of the Lord’ spoken then into today’s world?