Calling in the Unknown

What does vision and calling look like? What about the mission of your life?

For years I have wrestled with these questions, thinking about predetermined paths and expectations that were just never voiced. Once you are on a path, you have a logically laid out means of pursuing that path and you STAY.ON.IT.

A couple of years ago that mindset changed for me, first with Jon Acuff’s Do Over, where he said you can have a different path, one where you lived into what you felt drawn to rather than the one you had prepared for. But you gotta do the work, you gotta put in the hustle. (There’s alot more to that book, and I highly encourage you to grab it if this is resonating in the least with you).

The calling I had at 25 has changed, pursuits and interests have pushed me to consider options I had not seen before…and now a decade later I wrestle with letting that calling go and accepting the heart cry of obedience.

But what does that look like? 

Exactly the question I have spent months wrestling with. I need the template, the design and the future all mapped out to what that looks like for me. What it means to live fully into obedience in calling.

The scary thing is that there’s not a template, there’s no simple or easy map to lay out before me. My limited knowledge self wants that, but the obedient child of God knows that I don’t get that. Yes I get resources and tips, I research and prepare, but also know that stepping into an unknown is incredibly scary and racked with doubt. I have given excuses and ultimatums to God about what He’s been pressing in on me about…because I wanted the map all to myself. I want easy and comfortable, immediate affirmation and success.

One would think after 10 years of life lived I would know better than that. None of that comes immediately, or even before you step out into the unknown…and it may never come. So the human self makes the excuse, stays in the comfortable and keeps in line.

So living out a mission, a calling, a vision simply reflects who you are trusting, who you are obedient to, and how you prepare yourself each step of the way. It doesn’t look like the person next to you who is pursuing their dream, nor the person who has the platform you respect and admire. It looks like you…stepping out and pursuing what you feel is your calling now, in the hard and the ugly. In the days you simply just don’t want to and the days you really need to. It means pushing aside excuses and sometimes living in the doubt of it all for a time. It means both no schedule and freedom, and boundaries with a regimented plan.

This newness and shininess has long since worn-off, but the calling? Yep, still there. It’s still burning deep and leaving me hopeful and buoyant in expectation. But not the expectation of anything beyond simple rejoicing of obedience.

There are days ahead where counts and assessments will come, where the need will wane and I will wonder once again if this truly a calling and wonder what it all looks like lived out. Answers may come, but if they don’t I know that fully and completely that it’s not about what I get out of it, but what I give away.

All of it.

Every single bit.

The goodness of a calling, a mission of life is that it’s not to benefit me. and that’s the absolute beauty of it all. It’s never about me, ever.

 

 

Here I Am

“Mom!”

“I’m over here!”

You’ll hear that a lot in grocery stores, shopping malls and the like, especially this time of year. I know I even still yell it on occasion when I’m with my mom someplace. That universal cry of “MOM!” in a crowd and inevitably that mom will know it’s their kid, even at 35. 

In Genesis, Abraham hears God call his name, notonce  but twice. This often means urgency and need for attention. You see, Abraham had a knife lifted above his only son, following in the command of God to sacrifice him. God called to him, not out of a need to know where he was but to gain his attention at this pivotal point. Abraham’s response?

Here I am

It wasn’t as if God didn’t know where he was, searching all over the mountainside He’d guided him to for this event. The response by Abraham gave such distinct clarity to his obedience to God. He was right there, right there where God had called him to be, even when he might have wondered why or even in the hurt of the impending loss of his son. He was very present to the moment of obedience. 

God doesn’t have to search for us, that’s not what he was doing here, and it’s not what we see done throughout Scripture when these responses have been given. In reading I was doing I found that over the course of the Old Testament Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, and obviously Abraham all responded with “here I am,” when called by the voice of God. “When used in conversation with God, it’s an obedient response that always seems to have monumental consequences.” Trace the stories of those men from their response and you can tangibly see that presence to God’s call leads to some pretty major events. 

Even in Isaiah 58, as he prophesies, we see even God respond with this exact phrasing of presence in the midst of or hurting, He responds with healing and salvation. We see Him move into that space for us and let us know we are not along in it. But He also desires that response from us when called. He knows where we are, so when He’s calling out to us, it’s for our response of obedience. 

“Here I am,” means I am present to what You have me in and I am willing to accept it with You. It’s not a response of doing it alone or reluctance. It may mean laying aside the dream or desire you are clinging to, much like Abraham had been with his beloved son Isaac. While the Lord God stepped into his obedience and saved him from death, obedience often looks at whatever we’ve  been clinging to as the thing that needs to die, or at the very least lain down in order to have open hands of receiving the better thing He wants to give us-Himself. The cost of it can often be much, but what blessing in obedience we reap is far greater. 

It makes me wonder, and hone in on whether I am making myself available and present to Him. Whether I am responding with “Here I am” or attempting to dodge what I know He is asking of me in the present. When I am available and present to Him, He always is available to me. 

So What? 

You ever worry that maybe God got your plans and someone else’s mixed up? 

Maybe that He got busy with a lot of lives and plans that somehow yours was shuffled into existence in some other person’s life rather than your own? 

I struggled with that for a while, and there are days I think just maybe He flipped my life plan with another’s. Yet I was reminded that my concern is not with someone else’s life (and neither is yours with mine) but it is to be concerned with following Him. Even in that I shouldn’t be worrying over the next thing, the career plan or family plan but should be following Him with full attention. 

His will for me is sure, steadfast and promising. It flows out of Him and embodies every bit of Who He is, and not an ounce of what I think it should be. Yes, He encompasses the personality and gifts that He has given…but ultimately His will for my life is nothing short of obedience to Him. That’s it. It’s not worrying that someone else got that promotion even though they don’t attend church as much as you…or that they seem to be succeeding when you feel like it’s all turning up failures and hiccups. 

I look at Peter, our zealous brother of the Bible. I’m a lot like him some days, and even more so there at the end of John. When I feel like someone else is getting what was meant for me or is favored more than I, I point to them and say, “Hey but what about them??” This is after He’s told me what His will is for me, that He shepherds me and has guided me this entire time I say, but that’s not good enough for me. 

Christ’s response to Peter in at the end of John is the same for you and for me today, when we feel as though our concerns for His plan for others is overtaking us…”What is that to you? You follow me.” 

Oof. 

What if He blesses them and not me? What if they get the thing I desired in my flesh? So what if He does allow that for them? That’s exactly what He’s saying to Peter and to me. So what? I’m to follow Him, period, end of questioning, end of discussion. 

Christ has a mic drop moment with Peter, and if I’m honest, with me. When I heard those words shared by the Vice President of the company I work for, I couldn’t help but feel nudged by God too. Maybe you needed to hear them too today. That so what about them? Just follow Him. Concern yourself with following Him in what He has you in currently, where you’ve found yourself, and not so much about others and where He has them. 

Today may you say So What?  when the pokes of comparison, covetousness or jealousy attempt to sneak in. When concerns try to force their way into your life that are none of your concern, follow Him instead. Make Him the focus rather than the complaint. 

Do The Thing.

Tap.

Scroll, Scroll, Scroll.

Tap.

Scroll, Like, (Ugh, why would you put that out there?), Scroll, Scroll. LOVE.

Tap.

I think the majority of you can ascertain what that is describing, as we all seem to tap and scroll, like and judge on our phones these days.

We see people doing amazing things, putting themselves out there and jumping at opportunities. We see people out having fun, pursuing dreams, and everyone seems to be in a happier place than us. Am I right?

Lately for me, I have used social media as a means of procrastination. I have read posts, looked through photos, found streams of hashtags all in the name of research for my writing. But not much writing has been going on. Instead it’s a whole lot of scrolling and a whole lot of unproductivity. It’s lost time and momentum, and instead supplanted a whole lot of self-doubt and questions.

I wouldn’t say I have become jealous or envious of others’ pursuits as several years ago I prayed through that as I saw others advancing and decided to celebrate them over feeling left out or rejected in any way. (I’m mature, I know)

No for me, it’s getting bogged down in the distraction of it all. In the taking a break to clear the mind and finding myself flipping through four forms of social media I have at the ready of my finger tips. Trust me when I say I do love it, it has connected me with people and broadened my perspective on certain things, discovering new ideas and thoughts that I wouldn’t have been challenged to see.

But y’all, it’s my excuse these days. I use it when I should be fighting through writer’s block, when I should be digging into His Word, when I should be sitting in the quiet stillness of life. This isn’t a proclamation of social media fast (you all can stop that at any time because it’s okay to just do it). It’s a call to accountability, that I need to do the thing I am called to do instead of choosing distraction.

you-must-do-the-thing-resized

Distractions are so good, they feed our selves in such ways that bring us delight in the moment, a reprieve from the hard/difficult/uncomfortable/quiet. I am chief of these in pursuing y’all. I even said last night to my friend that I watch entirely too much television, and then commenced to starting the next show on my DVR. Instead of writing. Instead of taking time to dig into Scripture that God has put on my heart. Instead of praying for that friend who came to mind earlier in the day. Instead of cultivating relationships in and around my life.

Maybe you’re like me and seeking out distractions from dealing with life, a call that has gotten to be difficult, loneliness in the midst of a season of quiet, expectations unmet or unrealized…a place where God isn’t providing how you expected or how you defined. It’s gotten hard or quiet and you just want to be distracted by the noise of the world-good intentioned, but still distracting.

For me, I have to do the thing. Not what my flesh desires but what I know deep within, obedience. Obedience to the thing that is greater than what I desire in social media, television, inherently good things…to the Lord in this moment, just now…for today. It’s not easy, nor will I get it right 100% of the time, but for just this moment when I’d rather reach for my phone or remote, I go empty-handed to Him. To His call. To His Word. To time spent with Him.

Walk A Mile

img_9895It was supposed to be one mile up and one mile back. On concrete stairs, in the cool of the morning. Yes, the incline was steep but it wasn’t something I hadn’t encountered before in hiking in the Smokies or beyond.

I hadn’t expected the heart talk, the overwhelming sense of God in our midst and the whispers of peace that kept flooding over me. We were a group of four women, three visitors and Nicole walking this walk so many Catholics have for penance. We were there to see and talk with Nicole, spend time with her and hear more about this city her family loves, the people and their desire to pursue Christ in the midst of so much darkness.

Of the week we spent in Italy I have so much to process and ruminate on, so much that God spoke into, revealed and called me to conviction on. But these precious hours on Thursday morning spent walking (and huffing and sweating) up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca was the stone of remembrance I’ll place on this trip.

That talk and that walk point me directly to these verses in Ephesians (which were talked about this last week coincidentally)…

In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

Ephesians 4:1-3 (The Message)

img_9979

We walked a road for a short time hearing how God called Nicole’s family to travel this specific one. It also reminded me of the road He’s called me to travel. It’s not one sitting on my hands, just as Paul’s words are translated. It’s not one that is distracted by the view or the people passing by on their own travels. It’s about the one I am walking, the one He purposed specifically for me, unique to my gifts and talents He has blessedly given me.

The mile may be long, it may be far more arduous and heartrending than I had expected, but it’s one that I wish to be steady in climbing and alert for the time I am on it, obedient to the path He has called me to walk (and sometimes run) even when I am tired, out of breath and straining against my own will and lack of strength.

Defining Work

Recently I was talking with my sister about jobs and career and degrees. We both are first generation college grads, and both of us have Master’s degrees in the education field. As I was launching into a bit of an emotional monologue about the use of degrees in jobs she stopped me with, “You need to get over that.”

 

Without realizing it, I had elevated this education to a place of importance, of stature that was bordering on idolatry in my life. I had made it more important than God’s design for me. I didn’t fully grasp this until I read the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2:

Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind…Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun.

(v. 17, 20 NKJV)

I saw how I had placed my work, the labor of my life, as the thing to be obtained, to define me and make me find meaning in it. I did it all without realizing it. It was a slide I hadn’t seen myself take and ultimately it left me just as Solomon states, despairing and hating.

If I am truly honest with y’all I was a nasty person to be around in some of those moments. I contributed to the hate and despair as I let my job and my work seep into every ounce of my life, laboring out of a place of idol worship rather than out of the overflow of Christ. It wasn’t work as worship, I had switched it around and made my worship be my work. I sought the meaning of my life in the work I did, and ultimately it crushed me and left me empty.

It does that to us all if we allow it, if we pursue after meaning and definition from our work for our lives. We see how Solomon shows us plainly, cautioning us that he’s done it…every bit of it, and yet it was lacking, it left him empty. It ultimately gained him nothing but emptiness and despair.

But when we seize our work as a gift from God, that it is from His hands instead…that we aren’t relying on our work to be what defines us, but instead relying upon God, then we find nothing is better, that joy is found. Because it’s not about us in that work, it’s not about the work itself, it’s about God. It’s the good found only in Him, what He gives us, that we are then able to rejoice in. We are able to meet the stressors of a job situation, a career move, job loss with the focus on what He is telling us rather than what that job says about us.

When we are able to accept the truth that our jobs, positions, degrees, etc. aren’t what give us definition, then we are able to see the way God chooses us for them, whether a lifetime, a season or somewhere in between. It’s in that we can Amen to Solomon’s follow-up words:

Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor.

(v. 24, NKJV)

For Such a Time as This

There’s something to be said for Nike’s slogan of “Just Do It.”

The last few days I have pondered career path and steps. It’s been almost a year since I changed job streams and I have to consider what that has taught me, brought me, and fought within me. If someone tells you it’s easy changing your entire path of career, they are lying to you. It is hard. Change is difficult and we all know that, but when you’ve pursued something and poured your life into something for a decade and then leave it? Yeah, it’s like a marriage ending (or what I would think is a marriage, I’m single after all).

Through it, as I have referenced through many posts over this last year, I have found what I do does not define who I am. I let it for ten years of my life. Actually probably more like ten and 10 months. 🙂 (Work in progress y’all). I discovered through the course of that decade a calling to ministry far beyond what I could have ever dreamt up back in college on my own. It has to be a God thing, and it has to be His work and not mine.

But y’all, I have a confession here. It’s my safe space among a supportive and nurturing community (and a couple of friends who call me on my junk). I have been running from the call. I have been excusing, distracted, and down-right defiant about it. I do well at stubborn, ask my momma about that. Instead of allowing growth in me, choosing to hustle on this call of obedience I slid into comfort and coveting. I’d look at what others were doing and wonder why I wasn’t there, or getting that opportunity.

Jealousy and coveting are not good looks on anyone, and especially on my heart. Yuck.

As I was talking with a friend recently about some major shifts in his ministry, I kept spurring him on, wishing he’d see from this side of the view that God has given him this for such a time as this in his life. I poured words of affirmation and encouragement into him, seeing first hand the work God is doing through him in the ministry He’s placed him in now. The heaviness I saw in my friend just under a year ago has changed, and maybe that’s all a show, but it’s difficult in our friendship to hide that kind of weight.

I thought more and more on the conversations we had exchanged the last few months, and the recent revelation of a potential new shift in his ministry and I rejoiced. He was made for this, after years of work and toil this is where God had brought him. That’s when I turned that perspective on myself. Reminding myself that I too had a call to ministry. One that gets rough, hard and doesn’t look like much to those around me. But it’s there.

Actually it’s here. Now. It’s for such a time as this. So instead of allowing the beaten down attitude, the comfort of stagnation and the excuses of distraction to continue, we push on. We take hold of the promise of the prize before us, and we continue to run. We run not in our power but His, knowing this calling isn’t one of our strength but of His might.

So we just do it. For such a time as this.