One of my childhood pleasures was to go round to the next door neighbour’s house. The lady was old enough to be my grandma, in fact I suppose she was a surrogate one as my Kettering one was no longer with us. I was extremely fond of her and she always treated me with the greatest kindness. Her granddaughter used to come and stay during the school holidays and we would have a little picnic in the garden. Roaming in the garden were two tortoise and we were allowed to give them a piece of banana or lettuce though I have long since forgotten their names.
This memory was triggered by something I was reading recently by Gervais Phinn who began his career as a teacher, progressed to school inspector and then added author to his list of accomplishments. Nowadays he is also quite well known and very popular on the talk circuit having made at least one appearance at the Derngate. Both his books and his talks are based on his career, his home in the Dales and, especially, children and teachers he came into contact with. He writes how he was in a class and one child referred to the ‘Prayer of Jesus’ tortoise’! Translated, the child meant the ‘Prayer that Jesus taught us’. It is an easy mistake to make and most of us make that kind, some of us more than others. I count myself among the latter. We had not longed been moved into the house we still live in and we were gathered, the four of us, for Sunday lunch in our lounge. We were now on a main road instead of side street and suddenly there was quite a loud noise and I commented on what a noise the wind was making down the chimney. The other three fell about laughing and one of the children said, “No Mum, its not the wind, its a motor bike going up the hill”.
This type of mistake often occurs in unfamiliar contexts. I think of the biblical account of the boy Samuel who hears a voice calling his name and making the quite reasonable assumption that he was being called by Eli under who he was being trained in the Lord’s work (1Samuel 3). When he went Eli, three times in all, he was told that Eli had not called him .At this point it was Eli who realised that Samuel was hearing the voice of God and so it proved to be. I wonder what you can hear. Can you hear God calling you? Perhaps you have not yet recognised his voice or perhaps you hear his voice but you are not sure what he is saying to you. Other experienced Christian friends can provide the same kind of help as Eli provided to Samuel. What are you hearing?