I've been thinking a lot lately about calling, which is nothing entirely new for me. If you've read Unfolded Hands, you know I devoted an entire chapter to the fear we have that God is going to change our story in some massive, unpredictable, undesirable way. I think it's this fear that keeps most of us from considering there may be a calling on our life.
We're pretty sure if we listen to God, we're going to be the nutcase in the wilderness clothed in camels' hair, surviving on locusts and honey. After all, isn't that what calling looks like?
In some situations, yes. In the stories that stick out most in our minds, absolutely. Stories from the Bible, stories from our ancestors, stories from the world around us...the dramatic stories of what God is asking His people to do are usually like this. Isolating. Ostracizing. More than a little "out there." They take a leap of faith, a measure of courage, a denial of self that most of us are not prepared for.
Moses took on the criticism of an entire nation as he dutifully tried to lead them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. God sent a stutterer to speak, and he ended up the scapegoat of the whole operation, at least as far as the people were concerned. They complained against God, but they complained to Moses. There had to be times when Moses was ready to throw his hands in the air and concede, "You know what, PEOPLE OF GOD? I don't know either! You're probably right! Maybe God did lead us out here just to kill us in the desert and make us a laughingstock! I don't know any more!" Being Moses took more faith than most of us think we have. He had to keep believing when it looked like there was nothing to believe in...because the faith of an entire nation was resting on how well he lived out his calling.
Hosea became willingly unclean when he took a prostitute as his wife in order to live a sermon before the people of God. We have a bit of a redemptive take on prostitutes in our day and time, when we have seen the stories of Rahab and have seen the girls on our streets and have heard about women who turned their lives around to make something better of themselves. But in the Old Testament? Uncleanness rubbed off. Uncleanness separated you from everything. Hosea, while trying to live out the Lord's testimony in front of His people, would have been cut off from those very people by his mere association with a whore. Being Hosea meant sacrificing all of self, which is more than most of us are willing to give. He had to step purely into impurity...because the sanctification of an entire nation was resting on his illustration.
Elijah certainly lived outnumbered. In one powerful scene, the lone prophet of the Lord challenges the hundreds of prophets of the other gods to a supernatural showdown. He stands, surrounded by false prophets and taunting voices, and calls on the name of the Lord. Those who saw this powerful display were burned up in holy fire, so they could not come after the prophet who must have been scared for his life. After all, he'd just confirmed the people's faith system was completely bogus; he'd shattered their lie. But back down the mountain, the people heard, and the queen herself was coming after him. Being Elijah took more courage than most of us think we have. He had to stand his ground...because the ability of an entire nation to stand was resting on his courage.
I've already hinted at John the Baptist. He believed firmly in the coming Messiah and in the secret word God had spoken to his heart. He lived alone, on the outskirts of town, a complete outsider and total nutcase as far as most of the establishment was concerned. Paul was sent to sure death, as was Peter, by becoming the voice of God to an unreached people. John was exiled for his radical faith, and his powerful story.
And on and on the story goes of men (and women, although I have not included any here) pursuing God's calling on their lives. These are the stories we think of when we think about calling. These are the measures of faith, courage, and selflessness that most of us don't think we have within us. These are the things most of us consider, and then decide we are not able - or willing - to do. Even for God.
And we can't understand why God would ever call us to such things.
The truth is, for most of us, He's not. He's not calling most of us to do these kinds of extravagant things for Him. He's not asking most of us to give up ourselves, to give up our lives. There is only so much honey, and so many locusts, in the world; not all of us can live off them. This kind of calling is reserved for the very few.
Which is not to leave the rest of us out at all. You see, the Bible clearly shows two types of calling God places on the lives of His people. For a very select handful, it is what we all fear: to do something big, stupid, and crazy. For Him. But for many, many more (including some of the most powerful names in Scripture), God's calling is not to do something for Him. It's to...
Stay tuned. I'll tell you tomorrow.