This week we’re presented with the story of the call of Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-10). Just as Samuel had to intentionally stop and listen to Yahweh, so we also have to intentionally listen to God on this crazy journey we call life.
(For the full video version, click here.)
In this story a voice spoke to Samuel three times in the middle of the night (was this out loud or within his heart, we don’t know) and he believed it to be Eli, the old priest he served. Finally Eli caught on and realized that God was trying to talk to Samuel. Eli instructed him, “The next time you are called, simply answer, yes, Lord, I’m listening.”
Samuel was lucky. He had someone with some experience and wisdom to tell him to pay attention and listen.
Today isn’t unlike Samuel’s time… prophets, people who claimed to have heard from God, were uncommon for a time. We’d probably be hard-pressed to find many folks today who believe that God speaks to them (and I don’t trust most of those who say God does). Or, perhaps it’s just that we’re like Samuel and we don’t know what we’re hearing. Perhaps if we consider the possibility that the Divine, Source, Universe, Energy (or whatever you’d like to call that Something More), can communicate with us we’d do things a little differently.
Perhaps we’d stop more often just to listen for that still, soft voice.
Perhaps we’d see opportunities as potential paths offered by the Divine
Perhaps we’d be willing to be surprised, to end up somewhere we didn’t expect to be.
Perhaps we’d begin to expect the unexpected.
Rabbi Karen Kedar, in her book God Whispers, says, “The world of the spirit speaks to you in a hundred voices. Listen with the heartbeat of your soul.” I believe this is true. Here are some of the ways God speaks to us that we named in worship yesterday:
- Other people
All of these involve paying attention as we walk through life. Most require that we stop for a little bit to listen, be still, reflect, meditate (I’d say prayer, but most of us think of prayer as us doing the talking and this is time for us to be quiet). I know some of you are thinking, yea, right, when do I have time to be quiet? How about turning off the radio in the car? Five minutes drinking your coffee in the morning? In the shower? Washing dishes? Shoveling snow? Mowing the lawn? Gardening? Walking? Petting the dog or cat? We have plenty of opportunities, we simply have to open to them.
Listening to God requires not only paying attention, but then following the energy, or getting in the flow. When I’m trying to determine how to preach about a certain scripture I can list three or four directions I could go, but only one of them will have an energy to it that I can follow. To try one of the other options means pulling my hair out trying to make it work.
But following the energy, or getting in the flow of the Divine is NOT a head thing… it is a feeling thing, a heart thing.
Following our intuition is pretty much the same thing. It’s a gut feeling. An impulse.
Mark Nepo, in Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, says “To intuit means to look upon, to instruct from within… As such, intuition is a deep form of listening that when trusted can return us to the common, irrepressible element at the center of all life and to the Oneness of things that surrounds us…”
Are you aware when your intuition is nudging you? Have you ever discounted it and realized later that you should have listened? Have you ever had anyone try to discredit your intuition? Women’s intuition is often disparaged by those touting logic and reason.
I believe there are small ways our intuition speaks to us every day, and we follow or don’t follow without even knowing that there might have been results or consequences to our choice. Sometimes, we follow and it was glaringly obvious that something more was moving.
Author HeatherAsh Amara tells a story about running late for an appointment when she felt the strong urge to visit her neighbor. Her rational mind said, “You need to get going, there is no reason to visit Fred.” But something deeper kept saying, “Just walk next door, see how he is doing.” After arguing with herself for a while, she decided to follow the pull to see her neighbor and called to let her client know she’d be a little late.
Fred had been going through some really difficult circumstances: the end of his marriage, the possibilitiy of having to leave the home he loved, his young son being miles away. When she walked up he looked up from cooking dinner, surprised to see her.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I just felt the urge to come see you… how are you?” she said as she plopped down into a chair.
He sat silent for a long time. “Well,” he said, “I was actually just cooking my last meal. I have decided to end my life.”
After a half hour or more of listening to his fears and anguish and being present to him, he said, “I can’t believe you came by. You are right, I don’t want to end it all. If you hadn’t come by I would have shot myself tonight. Thanks for being my angel.”
We need to pay attention to those nudges and gut feelings and jump into the flow of the universe to see what it has in store for us.
I also believe that the universe sends us signs and symbols to help us know when we’re on the right path or to help guide our path. I’ve had many, many of these experiences, but I want to share one that I heard recently from a seminary student. She thought her life path was youth ministry, but then things changed and she just wasn’t feeling it. Every night she went to bed asking God to show her what to do next. Strangely enough the word seminary kept showing up everywhere she went. Random people discussing seminary in her hearing. She didn’t make the connection, but kept asking God each night what she should do. Every day the word showed up. It wasn’t until she was in the bathroom at a grocery store and someone else in the bathroom said seminary that she finally gave in.
We interpret the signs. They may mean nothing to anyone else. That doesn’t matter. But the chance of us seeing them is slim unless we’re paying attention and are open to them.
WHAT IF WE TAKE A WRONG TURN?
First of all, God is a loving energy that wants to bring us in line with our highest good, our most authentic self, our truest, most life-giving path. It is not hateful, it does not cause harm (though your path may include letting go of some things or relationships that are unhealthy).
But what if we make a wrong turn? What if we misread the signs or ignore our intuition? Then we just go from there. I believe God uses what we give to God and helps us move from that point. There is no point in beating ourselves up. We learn what we need to learn and move forward.
Pay attention, maybe even be like Samuel and say, “Here I am God, I’m listening.” Follow your intuition, watch for the signs, go with the energy, for the spirit has amazing and unexpected places to take each of us.
Love & Light!