I always wanted a dog. Dogs are wonderful, devoted, and loving companions. Watching neighbors walk their adorable canines only spurred my passion, but my parents simply refused. A dog was out of the question. It wasn’t until my adulthood that I could secure my very first dog. At the urging of my children, we headed down to the local rescue and secured the best dog in the facility, Buttons. Buttons was beautiful, spunky, and friendly. I was certain our relationship would blossom in time. She was everything wanted in a dog initially, but as time passed, I experienced pangs of doubt.

Training Buttons was a nightmare. We quickly found that she was strong-willed, disobedient, and required lots of chances. Teaching her not to have accidents in our home took double the time stated in the training manual. Instructing her on how to sit or remain still was almost futile. And training her to respond to our call seemed impossible. The more we tried to teach her, the more she ignored us. 

Buttons wanted to follow her own lead. We were at our wit’s end until we stumbled upon an expert’s video that touted it was all about our relationship with Buttons, not just the rewards that we were giving her. The video encouraged us to spend devoted time with her, regularly walk alongside her, and establish a routine so she could learn what we needed to teach her. Training became much easier when we put these tenets into practice and the closer she was to us the more readily she obey our commands. 

Instruction is a necessary part of growth and development. Eli leaned into this tenet when training his new apprentice Samuel. Arriving at the temple at an early age to sit under the High Priest’s tutelage was a fertile environment for Samuel. A promise made by his mother Hannah years before. And when God called to Samuel during the night Eli knew exactly what to do: train. Eli instructed young Samuel how to respond when the voice of the Lord was calling. Respond!

God speaks. He calls. He instructs. Eli stood on this truth and provided Samuel with vital instruction on posturing his heart with expectancy before the Lord. Samuel was told simply to position himself, listen to God, and then take action. Although Samuel himself did not recognize the voice of the Lord, he could now attune to His call. Samuel was now prepared for God to speak. He was willing, ready, and able to engage with the Master.

Eli was not the only one training Samuel that dark night. God was also training him and instructing Samuel on how much He desires a relationship with His creation. God knew Samuel’s name, He called out to him multiple times, and readily answered when Samuel postured his heart toward Him. We are not dogs, but we have a trainer who seeks to help us learn how to navigate the world through relationship. The more we spend devoted time with Him, walk alongside Him, and establish a spiritual routine we can learn what wants to teach us. Positioning our hearts toward God, ready to answer the call, and being willing to be obedient to His leading.

He is calling you, how will you answer?