“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.’’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’” –1 Sam 3.4-10 NRSV
I love this story. Every time I read it, I am drawn to Eli and the way he “perceives” the call of God and guides Samuel in hearing that call.
When I think about the role that Eli plays in Samuel’s life, I immediately begin naming people in my life who play this role in my own story—the people in my life who I consider mentors, who nudge me ever closer to God, who guide me in recognizing and listening to the voice of God, and who even speak God’s words into my life.
I can’t help but thank God for the incredible people in my life who have been, who are, and in some cases who will always be an Eli to me. Just as Eli helps Samuel identify the voice of God, I think it’s important for us to identify the people—the voices—that God has placed in our lives to do just that. And of course, it is important for us to express our love and appreciation for the ways in which they have guided us along this journey called faith.
So—who is your Eli?