When I was a young girl, one of my favorite church hymns was “Here I Am, Lord.” I especially loved the refrain: “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? / I have heard You calling in the night / I will go, Lord, if You lead me / I will hold Your people in my heart” (Dan Schutte). These lyrics are based in part on today’s passage from the first Book of Samuel.
I resonated back then with Samuel’s apparent reservation upon hearing God’s voice: Um. I think you called me, but I’m not absolutely sure. And I will certainly carry out your plan, but of course I’m going to need lots of your help.
As I reflect on this passage more carefully today, I also appreciate the subtle way with which God reveals himself. There is no thunderbolt here. Only the fourth time that God calls Samuel out of a deep sleep do things become clearer. Samuel is listening. But God’s will for him is revealed in God’s time.
Discernment is like that. Some of us have had that rare experience where we can clearly spot God’s fingerprint in the details of a situation or a decision. But most of the time it can feel like guesswork. We assemble a few pieces of the puzzle, usually starting with the edges, only to wait and try to make sense of the middle sections. Typically, after a test of patience, we eventually see the full picture.
Samuel’s story allows us to take a deep breath and shed anxiety-inducing expectations regarding discernment. God’s will for us is not marked with a “Sign Here” tab, and we shouldn’t worry about getting it right on the first try. It is more important that we demonstrate a willingness to follow God than it is to be certain that our every move is perfectly designed by our Maker.
Perhaps if we can just muster up the courage to say over and over again, “Here I am, Lord,” we will find ourselves on the right path despite any detours we take in life.