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When He Calls Your Name

Do you remember classroom roll calls? The teacher would read down an alphabetical list of names, glancing up for a half-second before pressing on. When you heard your name, you were expected to speak up before the teacher marked you absent.

Most kids in my public schools would say, “Here.” But once in a while, some advanced thinker would instead shout, “Present!” I wondered in elementary school why the teachers seemed to go along with it. If a kid could demand a gift during roll call, could I have said any word I wanted instead of just the boring “here”? I didn’t understand the full meaning of “present” at the time.

Credit: "School children" from stockvault.net

Credit: “School children” from stockvault.net

Nowadays “be present” is taking its turn in cultural slang. Who knows how long it’ll last before it joins outdated sayings like “groovy” or “fresh”?

It’s a compliment: “The best thing about that guy is he knows how to be present.”

It’s a goal: “I just want to be present every day.”

It’s a need: “Hey, would you just be present for two minutes with me here?”

It’s a way of saying to give all of your alert and undivided attention. To be present is to not be distracted by anything going on besides what is the here and now reality right in front of you. To be present has the sense of to “live in the moment.”

Lately I’ve had a curious image of God replaying in my head, like one of those catchy tunes that won’t go away. The image is God standing in front of me, close as if meaning to whisper an intimate secret. He’s reaching out to me. He longs to cradle my face in his gentle hands so that my eyes will rise to his…but he holds back. In a soft, pleading sort of voice, he says to me, “Be present with me here. Be present with me now.”

He wants my attention. Not for what’s happening in another city or another country. Not for future plans or past mistakes. He wants me present here and now.

When a kid shouted “present” during roll call, it implied two things. One, the student was physically present in the classroom. Two, the student was present with at least enough attention to hear their name called.

I want to be present in such a way that when God calls my name, I can shout back, “Here I am!”

Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” … The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:4,10

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Posted by on October 17, 2014 in Other thoughts

 

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“Here I Am”

After my boss told me about the company layoffs, I realized that I have the time to write this post. For one reason or another, I made other priorities. But now that excuse is no longer valid.

My job required frequent reading and study of the Bible. Some months back, I can’t remember exactly when, I came across Isaiah’s call to be a prophet. Recorded in Isaiah 6, the prophet has a vision of God’s throne. Isaiah is overwhelmed by his unworthiness to be in the presence of God. One of the creatures worshiping the Lord purifies Isaiah with a coal from God’s altar, thus making the prophet able to stand before God’s throne without guilt. Then in verse 8, God speaks from his throne, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Isaiah volunteers without hesitation, like a child eager to please his father. “Here I am! Send me.”

For the child, any opportunity to work with his father feels like a special mission just for him. It is an honor. Isaiah doesn’t know the job description yet. All he knows is that God has accepted him, and now he will take any task from his Father.

As I read this scene, it reminded me of God’s call to Samuel. He responded in a similar way even before he realized he had heard God’s voice. In 1 Samuel 3, the boy runs to his guardian, Eli, crying, “Here I am!” Confused, Eli sends the boy away. This happens twice more before Eli guesses that the Lord is the one speaking. Samuel had mistaken the voice, but he still had the right response. He got up from bed every time to obey the call. He came to Eli ready for whatever the priest had to tell him.

“Here I am.” These three words stuck with me ever since. Recently, I decided to see where else it appears in the Bible. It turns out that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and lesser-known Ananias all used this simple prayer. In each case, these words mean more than, “I’m listening.” Three short words succinctly express a willingness to hear God and a submission to his direction. These are words of obedience and service. The longer version would be: “Here I am, ready and willing. What do you desire or request? Say the word. Everything I am is yours.”

This prayer is not for the faint of heart. Abraham was told to sacrifice his heir and beloved son (Gen. 22:1-2).

Jacob was sent to his homeland, which he had fled in order to escape his brother’s vengeance (Gen. 31:11, 13). Later in his life, Jacob prayed this after hearing that his son Joseph was alive and a ruler of Egypt. God tells him to not be afraid to go to Egypt, where he would die and his descendants later became a nation in slavery (Gen. 46:2-3). Several generations later, Moses prays the same way when God calls to him out of a burning bush, and God sends him into Egypt to free his people. When David’s son Absalom rebels against him, David is forced to

A reminder I made for myself

A reminder I made for myself

retreat from Jerusalem. But he trusts God’s judgment and tells his priest, “If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him” (2 Sam. 15:25-26, emphasis added). Finally, there’s Ananias: the disciple in Damascus whom God chose to visit Saul of Tarsus, the Jewish militant arresting Christians (Acts 9:10-12). Ananias essentially says to God, “Are you kidding me?”

With these “encouraging” stories to guide me, I decided to take up the challenge. I re-evaluated my life and asked where God wanted me to go next. I prayed, “Here I am.” Pretty soon, God presented me with the opportunity to be a small group leader with students at my alma mater. The offer took me by surprise, and I had to stop and ask if it was really God’s voice. Sure, I had said the prayer, but this wasn’t the response I had expected.

Then this past week, my boss told me the bad news. Another surprise. Several positions, including mine, had to be cut from the company budget. Suddenly, I didn’t have work the next day. One phone call, and I had 40 extra hours of free time each week.

So here I am, Lord. Say the word.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

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