I’m slowly learning, then having to relearn because I so easily forget, that God shows up in the uncertainty, struggle, and pain of life. The God I know is not the God of easy answers or certainty, even though some preachers would have us believe that living by faith is living with all the uncertainty of life settled, our doubts and fears all wrapped up in a tidy, neat package with a proper bow of confident belief. That’s not been my experience.   

Which is why Brueggemann’s meditation, “Like A Thief In The Night” in A WAY OTHER THAN OUR OWN, stopped me dead in my tracks. (p. 24-25) I had to read and reread his thoughts on God speaking to young Samuel. Here’s the story from I Samuel 3:1-10:  

In those days, when the boy Samuel was serving the LORD under the direction of Eli, there were very few messages from the LORD, and visions from him were quite rare. One night Eli, who was now almost blind, was sleeping in his own room; Samuel was sleeping in the sanctuary, where the sacred Ark of the Covenant was.

Before dawn, while the lamp was still burning in the temple, the LORD called Samuel. He answered, “Yes, sir!” and ran to Eli and said, “You called me, and here I am.” But Eli answered, “I didn’t call you; go back to bed.” So Samuel went back to bed. The LORD called Samuel again. The boy did not know that it was the LORD, because the LORD had never spoken to him before. So he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.” But Eli answered, “My son, I didn’t call you; go back to bed.” The LORD called Samuel a third time; he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.” Then Eli realized that it was the LORD who was calling the boy, so he said to him, “Go back to bed; and if he calls you again, say, ‘Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went back to bed. The LORD came and stood there, and called as he had before, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak; your servant is listening.”  

God showed up at night, which can be taken as a metaphor for “down time”. Brueggemann wrote: Night is a time when we cannot see. Night is when we cannot control. Night is when children are frightened, because the shadows are lively. Night is when things are unclear and beyond explanation. Night is when we are terrorized, and so we have bright lights all around the house to fend off the darkness. Night is when even adults are out of control, and we are visited by our haunted past and our feared future, and we dream and have nightmares. The nighttime is bewildering.   Yet, it is in the night that God often “speaks”.  

Elijah heard the voice of God in the desolation of the wilderness. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night with his soul in turmoil. Jesus wrestled with the will of his father in the dark of night. The Spirit of God directed Paul and his team, through a nighttime dream, to change their plans and head to Macedonia.    Our breakdowns are the opportunity for God’s breakthroughs. When our lives and plans are unraveling, the answer might not always be to kick it into another gear and try harder to go even faster. How many of us are living the life best described by Yogi Berra? “We’re lost, but we’re making great time.”   

Have you heard from God lately?  Have I heard from God lately? I know that when I’m disconnected from God, the issue isn’t that God isn’t speaking to me anymore. The issue is that I’m not listening. I haven’t quieted myself down enough to hear—to sense the voice of God in my life.  The down time is when God most often shows up, but by filling my days with more and more and pushing away the uncomfortable, yea even painful struggles of my life, I’m also pushing away the God who is there trying to speak a word into my life. My soul is dying for that word of love, forgiveness, guidance, and hope. The metaphor Jesus used for his coming at the end of time is the metaphor for the Spirit’s coming to us today.   Jesus said, “Watch out, then, because you do not know what day your Lord will come. If the owner of a house knew the time when the thief would come, you can be sure that he would stay awake and not let the thief break into his house. So then, you also must always be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him.” (Matthew 24:42-44)    

I need to respond like young Samuel. Lend an ear to God’s voice, and when I hear that voice, the only appropriate response is, “Speak, your servant is listening.”   We’ll talk Sunday about recognizing the voice of God in our lives, and how to discern God’s voice from the other chatter. We’ll also share ways we can get quiet enough to hear God’s voice in our lives.