By Rev. Elizabeth Rechter, Executive Director
Spiritual companions come to us in a variety of ways. A spiritual director is one intentional way, but sometimes they come to us in the form of a stranger we encounter briefly. Other times they come in the friend of a lifetime, or a member of our extended family. They also appear in the books we read and the stories we’re told. Some of my most valued companions are authors I’ve read but have never met. I keep them near me on my bookshelf and on my ereader.
Scripture is another place we can find extraordinary companions, people whose journeys inform our own and tell us the things about God we know as well. They are encouragement for the journey. They are centuries old people who, like us, seek God and find their way.
Recently, I reconnected with one such companion from the Hebrew Scriptures in the story of the call of Samuel. It was a great gift to hear this story again, especially in light of what it means to be a spiritual companion. What do you hear?
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening,’” (1 Samuel 3:1-9).
As I was marveling in the gift of this story, I decided to check on the Hebrew for the name Samuel, remembering that even names help tell the story. Using my biblical software, I placed my cursor over the name, and the Hebrew translation appeared:
It made me cry.
Hear is also the same word in Hebrew for “obey.” To hear God, to listen to God, is what it means to obey God. The beginning of any journey with God will be to hear God.
As spiritual directors, we honor this. We make room for the Samuels to share their confusion, their discernment and their obedience to God. We listen with them to the voice that comes in the middle of the night and in the midst of life. And what we know, what Stillpoint holds as its mission, is that we all need companions for this journey. Samuel needed Eli to help him discern that what he was hearing was not a word external to him, but a voice within him, a voice that was guiding him on a sacred path for divine work.
Our world is full of so many voices ... good voices, and some not so good. Who helps us hear God’s voice? Who encourages our spiritual practices so our capacity to hear is nurtured within us, and so we can respond to God, “Here I am”?
Blessings for your Journey,