But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us which way to go.” 1 Samuel 9:6
I just came back from a weekend in New York City with Judi and Lizz, my two best friends from college. At night, we did the fun NYC thing until the wee hours of the morning. But during the days, we talked and talked. We didn’t just catch up on each other’s lives; we helped each other flush out what our hopes and dreams are for the new year.
In an attempt to help each other accomplish these goals, we each shared our hard earned wisdom from past experiences and hardships. It was like a Prayer Map conversation: mapping out the people and circumstances that guided us which way to go when we were at certain crossroads in our lives.
This Scripture passage reminds me of that conversation. In this story, Saul is out with his servant looking for his father’s lost donkeys. They travel for days and still can’t find them. Just as Saul wants to turn back, his servant suggests they go see Samuel the prophet, “the seer,” for insight as to where the donkeys could be. Saul agrees.
What Saul doesn’t know is God has an enormous plan for him, one He has communicated with Samuel. When they meet, Samuel reassures Saul that the donkeys have been found at home. Then Samuel tells Saul that he is being called by God to lead the people of Israel. He will be the one who delivers them from the hands of the Philistines.
Although Saul and Samuel are clearly the main characters in this story, it is the servant that stands out for me. Although he isn’t significant enough to be called by name, God uses him to be the bridge between Saul and Samuel. The servant is the one who suggests they go see the prophet. The servant is the one who points Saul in the direction that changes his life forever, and the history of our faith. Fortunately Saul listened to his servant, and followed his advice. Imagine if he hadn’t?
When I reflect on the “servants” in my life, Michael from California stands out in my story. I had always dreamed of joining the Peace Corps. But the Peace Corps won’t accept you until you’ve graduated college. Biding my time til then, I went to Haiti with a local church group during the summer of my Sophomore year. It was a personal test for me: If I couldn’t handle three weeks in a remote village of Haiti, I’d know for sure I couldn’t handle two years with the Peace Corps.
While in Haiti, I met a missionary from California named Michael. When I explained to him that Haiti was just a personal test for the Peace Corps, he asked me why I wouldn’t join the missions instead. His point was: I could do the same meaningful work, but I’d be doing it through the church, instead of through the government. I didn’t have an answer for him. But he planted a seed in me that day, one that started to grow.
Although I never knew his last name, Michael from California changed the trajectory of my life forever. If I hadn’t heeded his advice, I would have joined the Peace Corps. As they guarantee a job with the government upon your return, I’d probably be living in D.C. right now, working some government job or other.
Instead, I joined Franciscan Mission Service, served for three years in Guatemala, and now have my own ministry that offers faith based groups and retreats for moms, and service projects and groups for kids. I couldn’t be happier! Talk about a minor character playing a major role in my history!
I know the direction I want my life to go in from here forward. But just like I had it wrong all those years ago pursuing the Peace Corps, God may have a different plan for me now, and probably does. My job is to remember to be more open to the “servants” He is constantly sending me. If, like Saul, and I can wisely discern which ones to listen to, I will find my way to where God wants me to be.
P.S. – Wherever you are, Michael from California, thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Who have the “servants” in your life been?
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