Several years ago I had a coffee-hour conversation with a woman I didn’t know very well. She had written beautiful prayers for the Prayers of the People, and we had used them in our worship service that morning. “Your prayers are exquisite,” I told her. “That seems to be a real calling for you.”
The remark was spontaneous, bubbling up from my heart and spilling out of my mouth, and I didn’t really expect her to pay a whole lot of attention to it. But it was as if I’d struck her speechless for a moment. I remember her eyes, the lovely, liquid brown of beer bottle glass, going wide in startlement — I didn’t know why.
It turned out that I had named her true calling — called her out, as it were. I was her Samuel, anointing her with my words. What a surprise to both of us!
In today’s story from the First Book of Samuel, we see how God sometimes uses one person to open a conduit in another person so that they hear what God is saying to them. Asking Jesse to parade his sons before him, Samuel was finally instructed to choose David, the boy who wasn’t even present at the party. They had to fetch him from his duties among the sheep.
Samuel anointed the lad, and, “The spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” And that was it for several years.
I wonder what sorts of dreams David had before Samuel’s arrival. He was a poet and a musician. Did he play for his brothers and for the sheep he tended, thinking that would be his greatest gift? Did he envision a lifetime of caring for the family flocks on the Palistinian hillsides?
How did God mightily move him afterwards? We know he had the mind of a general, the tongue of an orator and the heart of a ruler. Did he have any inkling of the destiny stretching before him like a long shadow at sunrise? He was changed so that he could perceive. What did he see?
Samuel’s anointing didn’t alter David’s outer life in the least. He returned to his family’s flocks. No one outside the small gathering of people who witnessed the event even knew it had happened. But now David was open to conversation with God. God used Samuel to awaken David to God’s dream for him. And so he began to move in the direction God wanted him to go.
I wonder: what makes us receptive to God’s voice? God’s story needs to be unfolded in ways often too grand for us even to imagine. How does that happen? How do our hearts and minds come to be open to the astounding visions necessary? Who are our anointers, and who do we anoint?