There are two “call stories” in this week’s readings. The first is about Samuel, a child.
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.'” 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.” [from 1 Samuel 3]
The second call story concerns Nathanael. He’s not one of the twelve disciples, but is more in the “outer circle” of Jesus’ followers.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” [from John 1]
These two stories have some definite differences, but also some striking similarities. One of those similarities is that, while both Samuel and Nathanael had encounters with God or Jesus, they were helped along that path by a mentor or friend. Maybe they would have found the way by themselves in time, but an invitation to listen, to go and see, was just the nudge they needed to start in the right direction.
How often have you felt moved to aid someone, pray for someone, reach out to someone who needs a little help? How often has another person mentored or befriended you just when you needed it?
The journey of life is much easier if someone assists us along the way—helps us listen, encourages us, walks with us.
In a New York Times article about friendship, the author describes a 2008 study with 34 students from the University of Virginia. Each student was taken to the bottom of a hill and given a weighted backpack, then asked to estimate the angle of the hill’s steepness. The students who were standing alone estimated the hill to be much steeper than those who were standing with a friend. And the longer they’d known the friend, the less steep the hill seemed to them.
When we know someone “has our back,” even if they can’t shoulder our weight for us, our climb is easier, our steps are surer, our load is lighter, our day is less troublesome.
We are all capable of being intermediaries between another person and the holy. We can be intercessors when there is trouble, channels of encouragement when days are wearying, agents of peace when worry rules, instruments of hope when life seems broken.
Look around you and give thanks for those who have been intermediaries for your holy encounters. Then go and do likewise.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2012