Certain details get to me… like, when a picture frame hangs crooked on the wall, or when boys’ dirty shoes lay abandoned at the bottom of the stairs — for days, or when stains on my husband’s favorite shirt refuse to come out.
In my quiet time, I’ve been hanging out in the book of First Samuel. The relationships between the characters interest me. Chapter 3 recounts the memorable evening in Samuel’s life when he hears the voice of the Lord for the first time. I’ve always loved Samuel’s response: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” But right now, in this phase of my life, chapter 3 gets to me because of what it says about “place.”
“One night Eli… was lying down in his usual place… and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.” 1 Sam 3:2-3
Eli is an old man. He has had a tough go at being Israel’s high priest. Unable to control his sons, they disgraced him and themselves in their sin. His eyes are “weak”… maybe symbolic of the years he’s looked the other way because of his sense of failure and inadequacy.
The detail that sticks out to me is that he slept in his “usual place” — evidently outside the temple, removed from the presence of the Lord. Because of shame? Maybe. But it’s sad to me that with all his failure, Eli kept doing things in the “usual” way.
He didn’t move closer to the Lord.
He kept his distance.
Young Samuel, on the other hand, drew near. Scripture records that he “grew up in the presence of the LORD,” he “ministered before the LORD,” and he slept “where the ark of God was.” Even though Samuel hadn’t heard the voice of God yet and didn’t recognize it at first, he positioned himself to hear.
I wonder, did Eli think he could keep doing the same things he had always been doing and yet find different outcomes? Didn’t he see that sticking with the usual places would most likely produce the usual outcomes? Would God have had His own message for Eli that night if Eli had been near to receive it?
I feel like this is why our family needs to move to Orlando… to step outside the usual places in our ministry, church, friendships, so that we can connect with God in a new way.
So that we can recognize His voice when we hear it.
It’s hard for all of us in our family to leave the places we’ve always known and have grown to love. But, I can’t deny the growing sense within me that some of these places have too firm a hold on our hearts — or mine at least. In God’s desire for me to experience the fullness of living out the story He’s called me to, He’s gently prying open my tightly gripped fingers and is asking me to trust Him a new place.
I so want to hear Him call, and I so want to respond like Samuel, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening…”