With this post I’m going to take the long road with many detours. In terms of chronology, part two preceded part one.
Good in the bad
“How come you came to talk to me?”
“Because you taught us at Sunday school. Our class was loud and disruptive but I thought you did a good job.”
I only found an older Christian to help because I was at the end of my rope with some conflict situation. I wanted to leave and go to another church. Anyway, over time I’ve gained a reluctant but absolutely sincere mentor. I thought she was running away from me but her son tells me otherwise.
A few weeks ago we were praying. And she prayed about my “calling” to be here, in my hometown. Wait, I wanted to interrupt, I never said I had such a calling!
The dreaded word
“Too often we overspiritualize “calling” and make it about self-expression instead of faithfulness to God and service to others.” – TGC, Bethany Jenkins
I hate the word as much as I hate the phrase “waiting for the one”. It makes hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
Of course God can give specific callings but often in my circles, the word is often used as a thin disguise for self-centred ambition. I had heated arguments with my parents about this after getting my results at the end of high school – what if, hypothetically, I’m called to be a baker? Or a chef?
“We rationalize our ambition, sometimes subconsciously, by telling ourselves that we have a specific vocational calling and that he will use our success for His glory. And He may, but often it is our own glory we are seeking.” – Faithful is Successful
The first vocation anyone was called to was to be a gardener. Why do we think God is only interested in doctors and lawyers? I’ll write about equating success with faithfulness another time.
Open or closed?
Calling is under the broader topic of God’s guidance and purpose. I want to spend some time on this as this topic comes up frequently in my young adult group. Lots of people pray for open and closed doors. I think it’s a simplistic concept at best. What if there’s more than one open door. If the door is closed does that mean you should try again, or go for another one?
I spent much of my uni life thinking about these things. Who to marry and to a lesser extent, where to live and what career pathway to pursue. There’s loads of books on decision making and seeking God’s guidance / will. Some I found helpful are:
1. Knowing God’s Will by Blaine Smith
I’ve long parted with my second-hand copy with yellow pages. It was a relief to know that we won’t miss out on God’s will if we truly “approach our decision making with a heart toward doing God’s will”. The day to day decisions are a good place to start nurturing a heart of doing God’s will.
2. All the Places to Go by John Ortberg.
This is an easy read I picked up on a recent trip to the Christian book shop (nearest is thousands of kilometres away!). At my crossroads, I think I often equated seeking God’s will with seeking a painless road, without heartaches. Something that won’t make me too tired, please?
“I did not realize for many years that what I was looking for wasn’t so much “God’s will for my life.” What I was really looking for was a way to be relieved of the anxiety that comes with taking responsibility for making a difficult decision.”
“God’s will for your life will often be “You decide.”… That doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about you. It means that God cares more about your personhood and character than anything else – which is of course what we would expect from a truly loving God.”
Call me somewhere else
From what I’ve said so far it sounds like I either a) don’t care about my career, or b) have no self-centred ambitions. But I do.
Family commitments meant that my study group have finished both writtens and clinicals but I still can’t even sit for the upcoming ones this year. It’s exasperating. It sure feels like I’m taking forever when my high school classmate has finished and is now my small group tutor! Being here means I’ve had to let go of some great study and scholarship opportunities. Plus the professional circles are small – I want to be known on my own merits and not as my mother’s daughter.
So I’ve been a bit resentful. And being in a small church is difficult. My church is going through some major transitions which keeps the elders busy. There’s an expectation that we can run our own group of 15 to 30 year olds, Chinese and English, with a large transient population, without much input. Most of those around me feel incredibly young – in age or maturity. Having been at bigger churches with lots more peers, mentors and resources, it’s hard not to make comparisons.
Call me somewhere else. If it has to be hot (I love winter and so does my 30+ scarves) can it at least be somewhere exotic?
A few months ago I had a specific dream and unusual happenings that were reassuring. I suppose it can be dismissed as a coincidence but if signs existed at all this was a clear one that I’m supposed to be home, and that this little place is God’s church too.
I also think of my previous pastor and his wife who moved from a country town to an even smaller town. They’re retiring soon but are still incredibly passionate. On the first Sunday of last year I was there with them. We sang to YouTube (no musicians) and altogether we had a band of 10 or so (mostly elderly). Not much fresh blood and even some of the regulars were cultural Christians. Isn’t it lonely and discouraging? “This is our mission field. We have our joys and challenges.”
To end, I like this passage. Many times Jesus called people to up and go. This healed man begged to go but was called to stay. He went on to tell those at home what Jesus had done for him:
“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” – Mark 5:18-20