Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On Calling

There's a buzz word for times such as this, and that word is "calling." As I step into ministry and pursue seminary and surround myself with theology, there are suddenly an awful lot of people who want to talk about my "calling," about my "call," about the "call of God."

I haven't been a fan of that word because, to be honest, I haven't really felt it. Until this week.

Every time people used that word, I shuddered a bit. Because let's be honest - God hasn't come into my heart and said, "Be a minister." He just hasn't. He hasn't even come into my heart and said, "Be a chaplain." Shocking, right? And I think that, like most of us, I've had this sense that if God has a "call" on your life (which, by the way, is a word we just don't use that much in my religious tradition, or perhaps I'm just hanging out with the wrong segment of it), He would make it very clear what you are supposed to do with that. I have wanted God to tell me what to be. That was my imagination of calling. Be a minister. Be a chaplain. Be a garbageman. Be something, because I AM calling you to be something.

And so, at times, especially recently, I have felt like a bit of a phony. I have wondered whether I haven't taken God's name and put it on my own aspirations and tried to make it all seem more holy than it really is. We do that all the time, right? I know I have. You probably have, too. Then seasons pass and we get down the road a little ways and discover it's not all we imagined it would be or maybe even that it should be, and we come back to God and ask what happened. His reply is simple. "That's not what I said."


Earlier this week, I was reading a book and there was a chapter on calling. Specifically, on the author's calling. It was not the subject of the book, just kind of an added tidbit that was probably put there for a heart such as mine. In fact, I'm not sure the book really had a subject. It was more ramblings. An awful book, really. I wanted to stop reading less than a third of the way through, but I stuck it out and discovered this gem.

This author had kind of a messed up journey to get to where she was. She was into science, and then teaching. She scoffed at the kinds of things she would eventually end up doing for God. She didn't think she had it in her to be a part of such things. And then she had this profound moment of understanding as God put on her heart what she was to do: "Love kids." That's it. Love kids. 

Not "Be a youth minister," which is eventually what she did with her life. Not "Start a youth group," which she also did. Not "Speak at rallies," another aspect of her current career. (Oh, how I have longed some days for God to call me to speak at rallies.) Simply, love kids. What she did with that was, in a way, up to her. God told her what to do with her life; she figured out how to do it.

I got to thinking - as long as I've been waiting on God to tell me what to be in this life, what is the word He's spoken that tells me what to do? How did I come to a place where I settled on chaplaincy? God clearly has not ever said to me, "Be a chaplain." But I'm no phony. So what was the word?

A dramatic pause later (because God is into such things), piercing through the contemplative silence, I knew clearly for the first time the very word God has spoken over and into my life. Without a doubt. Ironically, it is the sense I took with me into every room at the hospital, an attitude I have carried with me through many of life's circumstances, and the very thing I tell myself when I wonder what God wants with me. That word is this:

Be My rock.

Be a strong place in Me that others can stand on. Be a strong place in Me that others can lean on. Be a strong place in Me that refuses to be moved by circumstance, by trial, by terror. When the world is drifting and times are tough and people are desperately looking for a place to rest, be My rock.

That means a lot of things, too many to get into today. It doesn't always mean what maybe you think it means, but sometimes, it does. I know exactly what it means, and I smile. Maybe because I don't feel like a phony any more. I feel...called. I understand my calling. God told me what to do with my life; I am figuring out how to do it. And I know the word spoken over me.

So I ask you today - what is God's word spoken over you? There is one, you know. If you're like me and waiting around for God to fill in the blank - Be a _______ - stop waiting. Ask Him for the deeper word. He'll tell you. Then figure out how to do that. That's what it is to be called.

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