Those were prophetic words spoken to me by an elder who wasn’t happy with me. Trust me, he didn’t mean that as a compliment. He said that because I was royally screwing up his country club. His nice little church who loved their closed circle of friends and hid behind and glass walled lie of, “We just want to protect our kids from the world” had been exposed to the realities of some radical transformation that can occur when you challenge students to read God’s Word uninterpretted.
“What does a plain reading of this tell you to do?”
As I taught middle school and high school students how to do that in a Christian school and the church that hosted it, kids started asking questions that freaked their parents out. And those freaked out parents called the elders. And the elders told me to stop teaching like that.
Before you can change the world, you better change your block
This has been a turn in my understanding of that phrase, of late. I can point to specific things that happen in my world and say, “Yes, I had a hand in impacting that. Those things have changed because of my being here.”
But my conviction is becoming that none of that matters if I don’t love my neighbors enough to help them discover the truths that those middle school and high school students discovered way back when. If I don’t love my neighbors enough to royally mess up their lives by introducing Jesus’ insurrection of the heart, I say I love my neighbors but I really don’t.
That’s my terrestrial calling. I can think and dream in planetary terms. But in reality? My calling is really, really local.
[Abram bounces his head to the song as he pulls the phone out of his pocket.]
[Abram’s glances at the caller ID and stops cold. He raises his eyebrow for a brief second, thinking about letting it go to voicemail.]
Abram: Ah, man. I don’t really have time for this today. Give me a break… OK, whatever.
[Abram swipes to take the call]
Abram: [With a little frustration in his voice] Hello?
God: Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
Abram: You don’t even say hello anymore? For once it’d be cool if you would at least say who it is. [pause] OK, OK… what do you want me to do? Leave the country and go somewhere? What do you mean by “leave?” You mean go for a little trip? Or do you mean I need to pack up my house, quit my job, and move? Are you OK? Have you been creating planets again? A little more clarity would be nice here.
God: I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you.
Abram: [pausing, looking inquisitively at his dog, who just raised his leg to pee on a bush.] What does that even mean? You don’t even say hello, you tell me to leave the country…. and now, a great nation? All I ever asked you to do was to help me be a better dad. A great nation? I’m not into politics. I don’t want to become a great nation… I just want to now how to talk to my kids about the tough stuff… you know… sex and why the Cubs suck. Stuff like that. [Pause, catching up to the reality of who he’s arguing with.] Any way we can talk a little bit more about the blessing part of it and a whole lot less of this moving somewhere else bit? I mean… I’ve got my kids in a great school. There better be one heck of a blessing for me to talk about pulling the kids out of school. You know, I’ve got a wife. I’ve got to sell her on this idea. Blessing, yeah… talk about the blessing some more.
God: I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
Abram: [Letting out a little doubtful snort] You want me to tell that to Sarai? Have you met her? [raising eyebrows and envisioning getting punched when he tells her.] She’s pretty comfortable in our neighborhood as it is. She loves our house. She’s got a whole bunch of girlfriends. Our kids our happy. We’re safe. And you want me to go home and tell her that leaving all of that is going to make our name great? She’s gonna throw that back in my face, you know? And I don’t think I like the sound of “you will be a blessing.” I can’t sell that to her. She’s going to want to here that you are going to bless us. Not be a blessing, get a blessing. Work with me here, G.
God: I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.
Abram: [turning his heart from despair, slowly to more of a realistic tone.] Well, now we’re talking. Sarai’s gonna dig this part of it. So when our kids start at a new school and the other kids tease them because they don’t look right, don’t dress right, and live in a neighborhood they clearly don’t belong… you’re gonna have their back. And you’re going to make it pretty obvious that people are getting blessed because they bless my family, right? I’m getting the idea that you aren’t asking me if I’m willing to do this… so you’re starting to speak my language.
God: And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Abram: [long pause, having been stunned into thinking deeply about those words] Whoa. OK… so what’s you’re saying is that if I go home and convince my wife to move from a house we love to a place to be determined later… that every person on the planet will be blessed through me? I’m not even sure how to respond. I guess I get to respond just by doing it, right?
[Abram realizes that God has hung up]
Abram: Hello? You still there? Yeah, I’m out here walking the dog… this canyon must have a dead zone or something. You’re breaking up.
[Pulling his phone down, he sees the screen displaying “Call ended.”]
[By this time, the dog has gotten tired of standing on his walk. So he’s laid down on his side. Abram puts his phone back in his pocket, stares off into the distance some more.]
Abram: [under his breathe] Yeah, easy enough for God to call me like that. Now I’ve got to go home and try to convince Sarai. How would God know? Not like He has a wife.
[Pulling on the leash and getting the dog going.]
Abram: Come on. Let’s go. Good dog.
Narrator: So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Yesterday, I spent some time thinking about the calling of Abraham and Moses. (Genesis 15; Exodus 3) I was comparing the discomfort those men went through as a result of their calling to a community and the relative ease with which I question my calling to the community I live in and the work God has clearly called me to do at YS.
Why am I so quick to question while they spent decades grinding out their calling?
I’m glad I spent time with Moses and Abraham yesterday. I somehow associate “being called” with “being easy.” It reminded me that being called somewhere brings great pleasure, but also involves sticking it out through times of doubt, turmoil, angst, and pressure.
A few week’s ago I ruffled some feathers with a post called, Youth Workers: Don’t Punk Out. I’ve known too many people called to a task but have given up for a different task. They will wrestle with the guilt the rest of their lives. They will work out justifications that make it sound like they weren’t “running to Ninevah” but in their hearts they know they are just trying to save face when they need to repent.
God may bless them in other capacities but the guilt of their mistake will always haunt them.
When I think of Moses and Abraham I think about their contemporaries. Certainly, God called other men and women living at the same time to do things. But their stories didn’t get recorded in history. Why? Did they cower? Did they hide from their calling? Certainly, they didn’t outshine Moses or Abraham.
The thing about being called to a task in life is that you know you are called. Hence the phrase calling. Calling implies that their was an invitation and a RSVP to that invitation. It was sent and it was received. You know you’ve been called because you answered the phone! God asked you if you’d do it and you willingly (and maybe with much trembling) said “Yes, Lord I hear you. I will do that.”
You will know you have been called when the power of the calling exhibits itself
Calling haunts you.
Calling wakes you up early in the morning and lays your head down late at night; it provides more energy than sleep.
Calling and vocation are two different things. Calling isn’t about a paycheck its about the reward.
Calling applies in every context you find yourself in. You can fulfill your calling living next door to your mommy, and you can fulfill your calling living in a third world country.
Calling and longsuffering are kissing cousins.
Calling can release you; it can spit you up; it can drive you to madness; but it is unchanging and seeming unchangeable.
Calling is affirmed by people in your life and by results measured in Kingdom impact.
Calling is about short-term suffering and long-term rewards. Abraham’s descendants are numerous beyond belief. Moses faithfulness to God was only surpassed by Jesus.
Calling looks like foolishness to some.
Calling isn’t something soft. If you’ve been called you know it. You might not be able to articulate how you were called but if you were called you would know it.
There is general calling, we are all called to love God and love others. And there is specific calling.
Calling releases energy, resources, and results that defy the laws of economics and physics.