Called

As medical coordinator, I spend a fair amount of time talking with people about calling. Sounds strange, does it? Not out here! Not when overseas workers' ability to do their jobs depends directly on events outside of their control, and when we are committed to affirm God's sovereignty in everything. There is no separation of work and life here--it's all one big circle of action and interaction as our lives minister and our ministry affects our lives in a fully integrated way. When it works, it really works. When it's hard, it's really hard. It's probably how it's supposed to be, how it worked with Jesus and all, but it's not very American. Not with separation of church and state, which so often means separation of public and private; separation of Sunday and Monday-Saturday. We chafe against it sometimes, over here. And when things happen which threaten our 'calling' we cry out, "How can this be? I was CALLED here, to do this!"

And so I've had time to mull over calling, and I've come to some very strong beliefs about this thing we know as Calling; beliefs that fly in the face of traditional understandings. (You may note a striking similarity between this and a recent sermon by Dr David Platt. I would claim he stole my ideas if I'd ever had the chance to 'counsel him (HA!) but I'll have to settle with concluding that he's just very brilliant!) I believe there are only three true, irrevocable callings.
  1. We are called as children of God. This calling can never be challenged, changed, or revoked.
  2. We are called to be faithful to our families. As a married woman with children, that means I am called to be a good wife and a good mother. As long as they are alive, that calling can never be challenged, changed, or revoked (this is not meant to be a debate on Biblically-justified divorce, which I believe does exist as a rare exception).
  3. We are called to make God's name known and His praise increased. This never ceases. This is what being a Jesus-follower is all about. Every one of us. Always. Wherever we are.
Note what's not on my list. Nurse. Missionary. NGO-worker. Pastor. Lawyer. Resident of Africa, Asia, Europe, or the Americas. Oregon. Alabama. The list goes on, really, of the things NOT on the list. And that's where the greatest confusion lies--when we elevate one of the transient callings to the place of an irrevocable one and distort where our true identity lies.

So when one is called to work in Sudan, and war breaks out and you have to evacuate...there's your sign that your calling to that location has changed. When you're called to India and then your visa is denied, there's your sign. When you're called to be a nurse and then you have a child who needs you at home, there's your sign.

But what about when it's your own body that betrays you? An illness or chronic disease that limits where you can live? It can be devastating to make peace between the presence of an illness, God's sovereignty over health, and a sense of calling to a specific location/role. Or even worse--what you if you're still able to do the work God had 'called' you to, but your CHILD has an issue that requires help? Ahhhh. That's the worst for many to come to grips with, and why, historically, many children's needs have gone unmet on the field.

And these harder cases are where I usually enter the picture, in my limited way. Encouraging people when I have to tell them that a transient calling is incompatible with an irrevocable one. I can't put words on the screen to adequately show how painful that is, what a wrestling match is required before people can find peace. And to be honest, sometimes it is too confused for people to accept, because our identities are too wrapped up in what we do. There are too many needs and not enough workers as it is. As if God NEEDS us to be here to get His will and His work done. But a wise friend recently reminded me...God doesn't need us. He gives us the gift of working with Him, and the honor of presenting our efforts to Him in love, but He's not depending on us to get things done. He's simply asking us to be obedient, even if that means change.

So my advice is this--when a temporary calling and an irrevocable calling are incompatible, prayerfully go with the irrevocable one. Stay faithful to keeping your identity in Christ and not your job or title. Honor God by taking care of your husband, your wife, or your children. Worship God by keeping your body, His temple, healthy and effective. Know that God can take care of the work without your help, as much as it pains us to admit.
 

Comments

  1. Enjoyed the read Miriam. I appreciate the way you write and I know the time and thought that goes into put it all together. Thanks for taking the time, especially considering that we are on the front end of trying to raise support to get there....hopefully, our sign reads, "It is time for you to go to Kenya now." :)

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    Replies
    1. Indeed! Prayers for that fundraising piece--it can't be easy! I enjoy your photos from up North; we definitely have gentler weather here!!!

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  2. A poignant message, Miriam,...thank you!!!

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