“Then the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”
1 Samuel 3:10, NASB
We are called to speak. God speaks to us in order to speak through us. In the days of Samuel serving as a small boy in the temple, God was not bothered about his youth. Words from God were rare in those days and visions infrequent. Eli the priest was losing his eyesight and could not see well. Samuel was lying down in the temple near the ark of God, right before dawn, when God called Samuel by name. Samuel was seen, known, named and called. Yet Samuel had not yet seen, known, named nor called God (1 Samuel 3:7).
God called Samuel three times. Three times Samuel went to Eli thinking that his mentor was the one calling out for him. Two times Eli sent Samuel back to bed clarifying that Eli had not called him. The third time, Eli discerned that it was God calling and that the child was simply confused. With coached instructions about how to respond, the fourth time Samuel finally replied to the Lord: ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.”
God spoke to Samuel so that Samuel could speak as part of his prophetic calling. Additionally, God was going to call Samuel to speak into his own mentor’s life and give him a challenging and convicting word about the corruption in the sanctuary. Samuel was afraid to do so. Who wouldn’t be? He was young and was being called to lead up. This required diplomacy, truth-telling and grace-giving. Eli even said: “Do not hide [the word that God spoke] from me” (1 Samuel 3:17). So Samuel told him everything, hid nothing from him, and Samuel grew and the Lord was with him. I find it interesting that telling the truth to his mentor made Samuel grow in his leadership skills. Samuel told the truth even as he was afraid to do so.
At my first job straight after college, after a particularly difficult staff meeting, my boss pulled me into his office and shut the door. His voice was gentle but no less firm. I sat across from him nervously and heard him say: “Hey Inés, what you said at staff meeting to so-and-so was awesome. You were right on target… but the way you said it to her was AWFUL. Do you think you could offer critical feedback to others in a way that doesn’t destroy them but instead builds them up?” My face blushed and I felt the weight of my words. I knew exactly what he was referring to. I had spoken truth, but I knew full well how harshly I had spoken that truth. The way that I spoke was as important, if not more, than the truth that was told.
Everybody wants the power and agency to speak. Not everyone knows how to temper the way we speak with humility. I will never forget that lesson and the courage that it took my boss to point out my blind spot. As an emerging leader then, I could have gone years speaking truth without speaking it with grace. Truth-telling and grace-giving go hand in hand as each of us are leaders in every room that we walk into. In boardrooms, in living rooms, in classrooms, in grocery stores, life and death are in the power of the tongue. Thanks be to God that this speaking with truth and grace is not a destination but a daily journey where we get to begin anew every morning.
Something to Think About:
When you speak to others, how do they leave after having been with you?
Think of a time when you felt compelled to share truth but didn’t. How might you handle that situation if given a do-over?
What are your challenges when speaking? Do you hold back and need to take a risk to speak up? Or do you overpower a room and need to sit back to let others speak up?
Something to Do:
Get courageous. Become self-aware of your rhythms and patterns when you speak. Notice how easy it can be to interrupt others when they are speaking. Notice how often men interrupt women. Notice who is not speaking in the room and ask her or him: Hey, what are your thoughts about such-and-such?
God of grace, you who spoke the world into being, speak my words into being. Holy Spirit, you who are the Spirit of truth, guide me into all truth. Guide me to the truth about myself, about God and about others. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be not only pleasing to you, but edifying to others. By your grace, speak to me and speak through me. Spirit, teach me to discern when to speak and how to do so with truth and grace. Help me to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Help me to confess and repent when I have been quick to interrupt, fast to respond sharply and easily short fused to anger. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. Amen.