Monday, June 23, 2008

Calling

Little brother (who is neither little nor all that young--sorry, bud!--so the pejorative is only in relation to history) is visiting with his fiancee. His--how shall I say this--PERFECT fiancee. She is startlingly right for him--she likes to run, play soccer, they went canoeing in January, they're going camping for their honeymoon and she's excited about it!, she's laid-back and relaxed about most things. I told them yesterday it's like they were always on the way to each other, through all the twists and turns of their separate lives, and now here they are. Like they were called to it...

What are we called to? We sat on our front patio yesterday in the warm summer sun, with the blue sky above, the garden surrounding us, the bay in the distance, and the word calling came up. To tell you the truth, I bristled when it did, and here's why. We were talking about the current situation in which I find myself, ministering in a way that suits me like a wool shirt on a hot summer day, and someone said to me, "but you're obviously called to it."
"I don't see you doing things like this," I answered, like a ten-year-old on a playground.
"That's because I wasn't called to it."
"Neither am I," I said. "I am obedient to this moment, but that doesn't mean I'm called to it long term."
"If it's this difficult, and you're this resistant, it's God calling you," she answered.

I don't necessarily buy this. I know, I've heard such reasoning before. Many times. From godly people who love Christ and spend much time on their faces before Him. But I think it's bad theology to think that God has to use a big stick to push us in directions contrary to our temperament, desire and spiritual gifts. Is this really how He works? Really? Why do we think God is so negative with us? The God of love who saved us dragging us kicking and screaming against our will, our hopes, dreams, and inclinations. It churns me up to think of this. And I wonder where in the gospel we get this idea (no, don't remind me of the Rich Young Ruler, that's about coming to Christ, not about life in ministry).

So this morning, after wrestling with this matter through the night (like Jacob with the angel?), reading Abraham's call, Moses' call, every 'call' verse I could find in the NT, I remembered a conversation I had with a wonderful professor at Regent College over a decade ago. He was an courtly English gentleman who had helped found the 'Unseminary,' and in my first semester, I took a class called "Spiritual Direction" from him. One evening a friend and I were sitting at a table when he stopped and sat down with us. We'd been discussing this very question of calling. In his beautiful British accent he asked, "To what have you been called?" My friend (who shares my first name, which isn't all that common!) began to describe many things she believed God had called her to, but Dr. Houston (James Houston--some of you might have heard of him...if not, look him up, read his books. They can be life-changing!) kindly but firmly cut through her words and said again, "What is your calling as a believer?" And the light began to dawn, slowly but clearly. Then he said, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (Ephesians 4:1) Our calling, it turns out, is always, first and foremost, the same for each of us--to live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:27) We are called to this--to believe, to act, to live as the Christ-ones He died and rose, and lives within us to make us. To be His.
Sure, He calls us to specific acts, specific roles (partners!), careers, lives. But let's be perfectly clear, the real calling is to be obedient to Him, and live a life pleasing to Him in this moment.
And that's what I desire for this situation in which I find myself--to obey Him, not simply with the grit of my teeth, but with the Holy Spirit-empowered joy floods when I couldn't feel it on my own.
And, let me say this, I believe--I am confident!!!--that if He desires me to begin a ministry other than what He has shown me to date that I am gifted for, temperamentally suited for, and desirous of, that He will do a good work in me to change my heart to be suited, gifted, and desiring of that ministry. I believe that. It's been borne out in my life. There have been calls a plenty. But in the meantime, I'll be a broken record about living a life worthy of the LORD. This is our calling. Get it?

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