“Are you sure you’re not called to ministry?”
Yes. I had answered the question a dozen times. However, I appreciated his well-meaning support and investment in me as a young man. To a degree, I felt like I was letting him down. But I simply wasn’t called to vocational ministry.
I was a church rat from the womb. I loved the local church and had found more than a home there. It was a place and people I could serve, grow with, invest in and learn from.
The local church was my base. No matter what else I was doing, investing in the church was what I did.
Still, on my proverbial Pauline road to Damascus, no light had shown around me. No voice had called out to me in a thunderous tone. I never saw a burning bush. My name was never changed. I’d seen many walk an aisle in tearful revelation surrendering to ministry.
But I hadn’t. I simply was not called.
“Let me ask you one more question. I promise this will be the last time.”
Okay. I was prepared again to softly reject him.
“What in your life would show you otherwise?”
It was an interesting question and honestly, one I had never considered. That question, however, led me on a journey of self-evaluation that to this day shapes my call as a pastor and gives me faith in the dimly-lit path ahead.
How can we tell what God’s call is on our life?
Like some of you, I have sat across from young men and women seeking to know God’s call on their lives. And this question is not limited to vocational ministry.
How do I know if I am called to…Adopt a child? Change jobs? Lead out where there is little direction? Speak up and into what area?
Let us consider four areas of your life. What are your passions, experiences, affirmations and opportunities?
What lights you up? When you see a blog, a buzzword, or hear about an opportunity in an area, what is it that pings your radar? We all inherently have things we would gladly do for the rest of our lives if X, Y, and Z were not an issue. What do you love to do? What are you passionate about?
Moses doubted his call from God, but it is apparent God had been equipping him from birth. He was a Hebrew, yet trained under the skillful hand of Pharaoh’s house. What unique experiences do you have? Whether positive or negative, our past experiences can often be the tools most readily sharpened for our future. What do you know a lot about? What have you done or experienced that some have not? What do you have experience in?
This one is important. If we learned anything from American Idol (and we all did), it’s that people can have passion and even a degree of experience in something, yet it is obviously not going to bring a fruitful future for them. What do your most intimate friends and family members say they could see you doing? Have you ever asked? What about someone who has only watched you from a distance, but cares about you? What about your local church? Your pastor? What would they affirm as your gifting? Outside affirmation can be one of the greatest resources in helping us see the God-given road ahead. Sometimes we can’t see what others see. Sometimes we need someone to lovingly open or close a door for us.
I’ve heard it said that when God closes a door, He opens a window. Sometimes, however, I think we need to quit looking for ways to get out of our own house. Where has God placed you? Who has He placed around you? What opportunities could you grasp today that could lead you to a future you are excited about? Where has God given you opportunities to take a first step?
It seems the place where our passion, experience, affirmation and opportunity overlap is fertile soil to determine (at least in part) God’s call and direction in our lives.
Granted, there may be times God calls us completely out of our comfort zone. We can all cite biblical examples of this. But they are usually not the norm.
We may be firmly convicted by the Spirit to glorify God in a difficult place. Some of our roads are uphill and rocky. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t the right roads.
So what about you? Is there something about your God-given passion, experience, affirmation, and opportunity you might be ignoring or not seeing while looking for more drastic signs of God’s leading?
Let us all give thanks to God that He uses sinners like us for His glory – wherever we are called. And let us ask together where He might be calling us next.