Monday, September 15, 2008
The Problem of Calling...
We find ourselves in an interesting place in time and geography. Tony and I are moving to Kenosha, Wisconsin to help launch Great Lakes Church with Pastor Dave Nelson and his family. This will be the first true daughter of our home EastLake Community Church. We made the decision in a matter of just a few days and now it's all set, everything else is just details.
The responses we've received since making this decision have been amazing. Some people are sad we're going, which is nice. Some are excited we're leaving to do this ... which is also nice? The one thing that we commonly hear is something along the lines of this: "It's so exciting that you are obeying your calling and stepping out in faith to do this!"
There have been times in my life when those around me would say, "I'm called to the ministry", or "I've been called to lead men", or "I am NOT called to children's ministry, so I can't help there", or "You should ask God what He is calling you to do, then do it." I began to believe that everyone had a very specific "calling" and that my life in Christ wouldn't probably begin until I found out what mine was. There were also times that I thought I must not be that good of friends with Jesus, since He hasn't "called" me.
None the less, He did call me out of darkness (John 8:12). He did call me to love Him and love people (Matthew 22: 36-40). He did call me to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep myself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27). He called me to lose my life, my preferences, my possessions, that I might find my life in Him (Mark 8:34-36). He called us all to pray that workers would be sent out to reach people (Matthew 9:35-38).
The thing that seems so great about a calling is that it can give you purpose and direction. If I knew I were called to missions in China, I might be more motivated to learn to speak Chinese, make connections with others going to China, pray that God would help me see how I would accomplish all of this. There is something comforting about that calling. You know why you are doing what you're doing, it's because you've been called. It could even be something you were created or meant for. In a way, the planner/preparer/organizer in me envies those who are called.
I don't know about you, but it is very rare that I have ever felt like God said something very specific to me. Along with the rarity, it has happened that I have heard God, but misunderstood the meaning behind what I thought I heard. The danger there is that if I wouldn't recognize that the misunderstanding was mine, I might think God had lied to me. I don't think I have ever called God a liar, but I have asked Him if He's tricked me...
And then I get another email: "We are so proud of you for being obedient to what God has called you and Tony to do." So, I generically respond, "Thank you". But, what I want to say is this...
Dear Loving Friend,
Here's the thing... We prayed about it, we asked God for clarity on whether we should go or stay, and neither of us got any clarity about it. We're pretty sure we are not "called" to go to Kenosha to help plant a church. We both, separately and together, got the sense that God loves us and would not be disappointed whether we stayed in Kirkland or gave up everything to move to Kenosha. Tony and I believe we have complete freedom and choice in this situation. Neither of us have any conviction or nagging in our hearts about this being an issue of obedience or disobedience. Yet, somehow, we've decided to go. I hope you'll still be proud of us.
So, as much as I wish we were called to do this, I am finding meaning in that we are not. The problem of calling is this: If you don't hear it or you misunderstand what you think you hear, you may never step out to try anything at all. If you are only doing what you are called to do, how very many opportunities you may miss to fill a need and do something great.