Young Samuel is learning the ropes of serving God when he hears a call in the night and assumes it is Eli, his mentor. Obediently, he runs to the old man and says, “Here I am; you called me.” (1 Samuel 3: 5) Eli denies calling Samuel, and only after it happens a third time, does Eli realize that God is the one doing the calling, at which point he tells Samuel how to answer. Following Eli’s instruction, Samuel responds to God and enters into conversation with the Lord.
There are three reasons I love this scripture so much: 1) like Samuel, I don’t always recognize who is calling me; 2) it reassures me that I get more than one chance to get it right; and 3) when I finally do get it right, God doesn’t hold my slowness against me, but launches into conversation.
I’ve also learned that this is a great way to understand my writing career – it takes discernment, effort and openness to write what God gives me, and thankfully, He’s very, very patient with my slowness!
Discernment can be a journey in itself.
I’ve always been a writer. But it wasn’t till I was pursuing my master’s degree in theology that I felt the urge to write books, and specifically, fiction. I remember telling one of my instructors about this new desire, and how odd it was for me, a trained journalist and researcher, to suddenly feel like I should write a novel. Her response was that I should not dismiss the urge, that God speaks through fiction as well as nonfiction. I tucked the idea away, thinking it was momentary insanity…until three years later, when another instructor told me I should write a book.
“But I don’t know what to write – I have so many ideas I’d like to explore,” I confessed to him.
“Then pick one and get to work,” he told me.
I chose the concept of vocation, and wrote my first book, a short theological reflection on Christian vocation. I enjoyed the work and the book was published. It felt right, and it felt safe. Nonfiction, I could do.
But I still felt the draw to write fiction. One day, I decided to give it a try when a friend told me I told great stories about my kids. Since I loved mysteries, I chose that genre, and surprised myself with how immersed I became in the writing. I felt like it was what I was called to do.
In my experience, God does speak to us through others, even when we’re not listening very well. Samuel was lucky – he had Eli to help him discern God’s voice. In our lives, I believe we have help, too, but we have to be open to those messengers of discernment, because they can come in many forms and voices, and they can be very persistent (thank goodness!). After all, it took Eli three times to recognize God’s call for Samuel.
Who helps you discern the call of God in your writing life?