May We Be Mothers With the Spirit of Samuel

My son has a children’s Bible we read on a semi-daily basis. It’s one of those books filled with common Bible stories accompanied by illustrations. My son loves it, and I love sharing my faith with him.

Becoming a mother has changed the way I read the Bible. I have more in common now with Sarah and Hannah, who prayed and begged for a child despite infertility. I understand better how Rachel and Leah engaged in a war of comparisons as they competed for their husband’s love and respect by giving him more children. I can sympathize with Mary when she lost her Son for three days when He was just 12 years old. And the thought of holding my dead child’s body in my arms touches my mother’s heart in a way it didn’t before I had children.

We recently read the story of the call of Samuel. Samuel was only a child at the time of the story, but he had already begun his service in the temple under the tutelage of the priest Eli. In the middle of the night, Samuel heard his name being called. Assuming it was Eli calling him, Samuel reported for duty but was quickly sent back to bed. Eventually, Eli realized what was happening—God was the one calling Samuel. He instructed the boy to go back to sleep, and if he heard his name being called again, Samuel was to respond with, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” God called Samuel again, and this time Samuel was prepared to respond appropriately.

The story of Samuel was not a new one for me, but as I read it to my son, it was like reading it for the first time. I was struck by how much Samuel reminded me of myself and how much God reminded me of my kids (sorry God). Every night, I go to bed hoping for eight straight hours of sleep. Instead, someone’s voice keeps waking me up. And they keep making me get out of bed. I don’t know how great sleeping in the temple felt, but my bed is very comfortable. I don’t like leaving it, but I have to respond to the call. It’s my name being said after all.

I need to be more like Samuel. He keeps getting up, time after time. He keeps reporting for duty. I imagine Samuel stumbling around in the dark, rubbing his eyes and straining to see what’s in front of him. I imagine him approaching Eli, his voice hoarse from disuse. But he keeps showing up. He is always there when he is called. He is faithful. He is devoted.

He is also happy to serve, even if he isn’t exactly chipper in my imagination. He approaches Eli with a sleepy smile on his face. And when he finds out it is actually God calling him? He is ecstatic. But he’s still tired and half asleep as he responds with joy in my mind. He has been awoken four times now after all, and it is still the middle of the night. He is naturally tired. But he is also willing to serve and happy to do it. It is his Lord calling him after all.

God was persistent. He kept calling Samuel even when the boy didn’t understand what the call meant. God did not give up on Samuel. He did not quit calling him because God knew Samuel would keep answering until He was really heard.

I want to be more like Samuel. I want to be happy to serve my son even when I’m tired. Even when it’s inconvenient. Even after my son has called my name multiple times, and I have answered him each time. Even after I’ve been pulled from my warm bed for the fourth time in one night. This is the life God has called me to live. When I hear my son calling me in the middle of the night, I need to recognize the voice of God calling me through my son—calling me to give myself in love, to sacrifice myself in devotion, to answer the call with joy.

I might not be my son’s servant, but I do need to respond to him with the spirit of Samuel. I need to be present to him, and I need to listen. I know my son will be persistent like God. He will keep calling me. He will not give up on me. He will trust that I will keep answering him. When I respond to my son, I am responding to God. When I love my son, I am loving God. When I answer the call of my son, I am saying to God, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Who would have thought a young boy could be such a great role model for mothers? And who would have thought my son could teach me so much about God?

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