By Steve Williams
1Samuel 4-10: 4
Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 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.6 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.”7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.8 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. 9 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.10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Sometimes, it takes a long time for us to recognize and respond to God’s word. Fortunately, God is persistent. In the spring of 1999, I was completing my 22nd year as an attorney and partner in a Philadelphia law firm. I had not intended to stay so long; I had always had an itch to be a teacher. But the years had gone by, I had enjoyed the work I was doing, and I had gotten comfortable in my place. The itch was still there, but I scratched it by teaching Sunday School and coaching high school hockey.
Then, one Sunday morning, my pastor gave a sermon that unsettled my comfortable place. I don’t recall his precise words, but I remember feeling as if he was speaking directly to me. What he was saying was that I needed to rethink my priorities and plans. Still, I hesitated. I was almost 51 years old, too late to start over and too uncertain that I could make a difference.
A few weeks later, on April 20, 1999, two senior students at Columbine High School in Colorado opened fire with automatic weapons they had brought to school that day, killing 12 students and one teacher before turning the gun on themselves. As I watched the news reports that evening in shock and disbelief, I felt a chill go through my body. Then, and this is the only way I know how to describe it, the words came into my head, “You should be there.” And I knew instantly, without giving it any thought, what that meant. Not that I should be in Columbine, but that I should be in a school, somewhere.
While I was not quite like Peter and Andrew, who being called by Jesus “immediately left their nets and followed him”, I did set my course that day on a different path that in due time led me to Athens and a thirteen year career in teaching. I did so with the certain feeling that God would be with me on the journey. Through my experiences, I have come to believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, does indeed speak to us in many and varied ways if we choose to listen.
Prayer: Open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds, O God, that we may hear your voice and do your will. Amen.