“William” she said in the early morning hours this morning. It sounded exactly like Carol’s voice. I immediately answered, “Um Hmm.” But Carol was sleeping beside me. This has happened before. I think I am surely being called out of sleep by Carol for something she needs. The voice seems unmistakable, feminine, calling my name with a bit of urgency. The voice turns out to be rising up from somewhere within me. I don’t know what this means.
My mind goes immediately to Samuel, the young biblical figure who keeps hearing his name in the night, and who thinks it is his spiritual elder Eli calling. He too answers, then learns the voice is not from the one he thinks he recognizes. He is instructed to answer, “Here I am.” And it turns out to be the Lord calling in the night.
So I wonder if this feminine voice calling my name is the Lord. I don’t know what else to do but try to open my mind and heart to see if there is more. Is there a message coming? Is there some instruction to follow? Am I being called to something? Nothing else comes, so far.
So I wonder. Is this just a trick of the mind? Is my psyche just reproducing one of the times when Carol did in fact call my name with urgency in the night? Is this an expression of my unconscious fear that she will have another health emergency some day? But then why is the voice sharp and clear enough to wake me from sleep? And why is it not followed by an unfolding story as in most dreams? Why is it just my name spoken in my ear?
Today I do not have an answer for my question. I am left to wonder. Being a contemplative, one who has found that the gate of heaven is everywhere, I can’t help but take this remarkable moment as a call to keep my eyes and ears and mind and heart open. My name is being called in the night. There might be more to follow, some message, some guidance, some simple Spirit nudge. There might be a meaning to this mid-night name calling. The least I can do is respond in my heart, “Here I am Lord,” and keep listening.
In this way a contemplative life is perhaps simply defined as a listening life. We are listeners to our own life and we hope to hear from the Giver of Life. But we have no control over what comes into our inner ears. This contemplative life is a stance, a commitment to stand with ears and heart open. We are listeners for a particular Voice which might arise at any time and in any form beyond our manipulations. And perhaps we have learned from experience that we do not want to miss the Voice however it arises.
What is the contemplative life? A life of waiting, watching, listening, and opening. A life of listening when our name is called and saying, “Here I am Lord, speak.”
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now also available as a Kindle book.