The story of Samuel as a child has always moved me. God calls Samuel in the middle of the night, calling his name in the dark, and little Samuel says, “Hineni – here I am!” And he gets up and goes running to Eli, the priest who takes care of him, thinking Eli has called him. And Eli, old and blind and very weary, keeps telling him, “I didn’t call you, Sammy; go back to bed!” And this keeps happening. And I love that story, both because Eli and Samuel are so human in it – the child waking up repeatedly in the middle of the night and running to your bedside, and the old man groaning like Samuel L. Jackson (“go the f to sleep!”) and because of what it suggests about what God sounds like. When God really has something to say, he doesn’t sound like the thundering voice that televangelists, radio show talk hosts, and other pundits like to talk about. He doesn’t sound High and Almighty and wrathful in a way that Americans would recognize. He sounds like a dad (and specifically the kind of dad that a child would run to eagerly after waking from sleep). Quiet, intimate, not a windstorm or an earthquake but a small voice calling your name. I love that story. It’s the first story I ever learned in sunday school as a child, and it’s truer than many tales I’ve been told about my God by others since.
I was reading that story again this morning.