`Sunday morning Beve and I were invited to a church out in the county where one of Beve's colleague's attends and was preaching his first sermon in thirty odd years. This is a man who felt called to the ministry at the age of 12, began preaching in college but through many twists and turns, primary among them Vietnam, became a public school teacher/administrator instead for the course of his long career. Now he's reached the end of that career. And just recently, as he's begun to think about that end, or perhaps before he even thought the end was drawing near, God began whispering to him again that he should take up the calling he laid down after the horror he went through in a war zone. A horror so devastating he has never spoken of it, not to his wife, not to anyone. EVER. Even saying that much Sunday morning made his voice tremble and tears fall. It's that painful, that debilitating. I can't imagine. None of us can who hasn't been there. It's hearing such sounds as his voice--thirty years past such pain--that make me push me over the edge toward pacifism.
Anyway. His was a deeply personal story. A testimony. That's what a testimony is, of course. It's the story of how God calls us and calls us again. His has the words, "Are you ready?" in it. As in God repeating asking him over the last six months, "Are you ready to serve me?" It was moving and affecting to listen to how he's finally answering that call. It reminded me a little of Peter on the beach who had gone back to his nets after Jesus' crucifixion and even (more astonishingly) His resurrection. "Feed my sheep!" Jesus told Him. No matter what you've done, no matter what you've seen, how you've denied me, follow me. Do what I called you to do. Are you ready? Yes, Lord, I'm ready.
After this testimony, we sang an old song (not quite an old hymn, but certainly a song from my Methodist youth), "Here I am, Lord!" The words of this song comes from Isaiah 6: 8 where the prophet is asked to preach, and says, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?
And I said, "Here I am. Send me!"
I've always, always LOVED this song. Sang it sometimes when, as a college freshman and sophomore, I was on my way to Troy, Idaho to meet with high school girls as a Young Life leader; as a college junior when I was driving to Eugene, Oregon to transfer to a different university; when I was a graduate student, studying and working among those who not only didn't believe but ACTIVELY opposed the faith; when I was flying across the globe to a YWAM base to do cross-cultural ministry; when I taught high school Sunday school; and helped in their ministry; when I lead retreats; preach sermons, lead mission trips; went to Regent College to get my Masters. As a MOTHER. As a WIFE.
And that's what hit me as we sang this song. I stood among many public school employees, most of whom are counselors who work with kids. Some are folks who specialize in kids who are homeless, or have substance abuse problems. Or are the victims of abuse. And I was struck by the truth that these people have been called to this work as deeply and profoundly as any person is called to a pulpit. No one would fall into the job that Beve and his colleagues do. No one does it for the pay. There are more headaches than benefits. They see more pain than most of us can imagine. It might not be a war zone but it's the closest thing we have in our city, but across this country, a counselor's office (and other places like them) is the front line. These are the combat soldiers. These are men and women who have answered a Call.
But here's the other more important truth. Wherever we are, we should feel called. And if we don't, why not? Why the heck are we there if not? Whatever we're doing, we should be doing it because we believe it to be the will of God for us. So the real question is, what will our witness be in the place God has put us? Every person who loves Christ and interacts with other people daily is engaged in Kingdom work. We are His people, His very presence--in the market place, public schools, industry. Whether we open our mouths or not, we are His witness. No matter what the world says (and J reminded me the other day that the ideaof the separation of Church and State was not only not constitutionally founded, but first voiced in a letter penned by Thomas Jefferson--as a mere offhand remark!), we can speak volumes of who Christ is by our conduct toward those in authority, those we work beside, those over whom we have authority. It is up to us. We are called. No matter what else we are, we are always, ALWAYS, called.
Are you ready? To do His bidding, to be His witness, to serve those around you, to respond as Christ no matter how you are treated, and yes, to preach His Name--in season or out--if the opportunity arises? And then...yes, then, if as sea-change happens at some point in your life, that calling doesn't change. Only the means by which you witness to Him does.
Are you ready?