Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Callings, such a strong and yet elusive word. How often during your week (especially you SAHMs) do you wonder, what is my calling? Am I missing something? God, could you please make it clear what you are calling me to?
Or maybe, the word "calling" is a term that holds little meaning to you? Maybe you hear this word from your Christian acquaintances and friends and wonder what are they talking about? (Sometimes we Christians throw some pretty interesting words and phrases around that when used out of the context of a sermon or the church setting make no sense at all. Sorry about that culture--we are full of faults, all of us. I will be the first to admit that I am not always sensitive to the fact that my vocabulary is sometimes confusing due to my very strong Christian-Bible-roots.)
Here is how the dictionary defines calling: b) vocation, profession or trade (What is your calling?), c) a call or summons (He had a calling to join the church.), d) a strong impulse or inclination (She did it in response to her inner calling.) You can see right there in the definition the strong connecting this word has with the church and Christian culture.
Over the course of the past few weeks this idea of "calling" has been on my mind, repeatedly running through my head like an internal mantra. It has also shown up in conversations I have had with friends. It all started one day when I woke up and this thought weighed heavily on my mind, "What if today you thought of all that you have to accomplish (the chores, the child-rearing, the lesson plans, the IF: Gathering meeting, the meal-making, the 6-miler with friends...) as all part of your calling?" "What if they are all callings?"
This wrecked havoc on my brain's understanding of "calling" because the definition I most related to in the ones listed above was, b) a vocation, profession, or trade. Those all seem like one solid pathway that can be followed. I wanted this for my life, God just show me that one "calling" you have more me. Make it clear, point me in the one direction I can point all my energy toward so I can go at with all my energy, and do great things for you through my "calling".
You see, to me living this juggling-act, 10 things to keep-up with calling is very hard. I constantly feel distracted. When I am working on my lesson-plans I am worrying about not getting the dishes done. I feel discontent. When I am folding the 100th load of clothes for the month, I am wishing I was doing something more exciting or significant. I feel lost. I can't keep up with it all and I can't seem to decide which of the "callings" to focus on in the moments of my day. And then somedays, I feel just plain empty. Like really empty because I read about all the hurts and poverties in the world and I look at my to-do list and wonder what I am doing to be part of the clear calling God has given to all of us who believe in him, that one big one in James 1:27, to care for the orphans and widows. To clothe the naked (Mathew 25:36). To offer up my riches so that I can give to the poor (Matthew 19:16-22).
But somehow those callings seem so beyond my reach. And I sit in angst and ponder "calling". I walk around the house picking up the same toys for the 17th time, and I ponder "calling". And at the end of the day I roll back and forth in bed pondering "calling" hoping that that it will become clearer to me just what "calling" looks like in my life.
And sometimes I fall right off to sleep (exhaustion wins) and other nights I have thoughts that nag at me--begging me to dig deeper and seek answers. Honestly, I usually just end up with more questions, but even those questions seem to get me to a new perspective.
All my tossing to and fro got me to these questions the other night: Wasn't Moses a horrible example of what to do with your calling? Yep, that is what my pessimistic human nature came up with! Throw Moses under the bus, that is easier than putting my own heart under inspection. But really, Moses didn't start out so great! The story of Moses begins in Exodus 2 and it takes him all the way until chapter 14 to get his countrymen out of Egypt. If you don't know the story it goes something like this: As a baby, Moses is saved from being killed due to his mother's wit and the Pharaoh's daughter. He grows up and comes to the realization that his people are the slaves that live in his land and he is angered (Probably because he realizes he should do something about this, but the problem is to big, the calling is too incomprehensible--hmmm, that sounds familiar.) So, what does Moses do, he runs away. And settles in a foreign land for many years. Then in Exodus 2:23 we get this little gem of a verse, this is the one that really struck me and confirmed that Moses was the horrible example I pinned him to be, "During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God"(NIV).
Do you see what happened because Moses ran away from his call to save his people? They suffered. As I was thinking of this I was also reminded of another young man who missed his chance to fulfill his calling and was left with sadness in it's place. In Mathew 19:16-22 Jesus encounters a very respectable, honorable Rich Young Ruler who desires to do what is right and be a part of what Jesus' calling. Jesus' calling to him was: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (NIV). The young man went away sad because his wealth was so great that the immensity of the calling seemed too great--it overwhelmed him to the point of inaction. Have you been there? I have.
Both Moses and the Rich Young Ruler have been my source of tossing and turning because of this: I cannot get out of my mind that when they didn't follow their calling, people suffered. The Israelites suffered in slavery and the poor suffered because they were not cared for by the young man with great wealth. And guess what, people suffer when I don't take the time be Christ to them. When I don't invite that mom and her kids to church. When I don't speak in gentleness and patience with my children. When I don't skip my trip to Target and instead send $50 to someone who really needs it. When I don't teach my kids about the poverty in the world and the calling that we have to be Jesus and clothe the naked or be a source of love to the widow. When I don't generously use words of praise, affirmation and encouragement to build up my husband and others. When I don't choose a mindset of thankfulness.
The problem is, when I see this calling of caring for the poor, the orphaned, the widow, I see it as starting down a career path. I see it as imagining what kind or organization I can create and how many followers I can get to make an impact. And when I see my calling in this way, it is incomprehensible and I want to run away like Moses, and live in emptiness like the Rich Young Ruler. You see, I want my calling to be one big thing, but being called to big thing scares me into doing nothing. (It's okay, you can say it, you area fickle, crazy person. I think it all the time, so it won't hurt my feelings!)
But...I am learning that maybe I am being a little too dramatic and I need to rest in the truth God spoke to me that one morning before I put my feet to the cold wooden floor, "What if today you thought of all that you have to accomplish (the chores, the child-rearing, the lesson plans, the IF: Gathering meeting, the meal-making, the 6-miler with friends...) as all part of your calling?" "What if they are all callings?" And what if by not following through with my callings the people closest to me are suffering? What if the biggest changes in the world can happen by me making sure that I am following my callings at home first? But also being careful to not forget to work into these callings at home opportunities to give to the poor, and care for the orphans and widows. Because when I do that, I am being Christ's hands and feet and my kids get to see it. And more people learn and less people suffer.
Do you suffer from Moses syndrome? Do you see the calling but are unable to see how God could possibly use you to make a difference? Do you run away from those tugs on your heart calling you to take action to lessen the suffering in someone else's life?
But Moses' story doesn't end in Exodus 2. In fact, it could be argued that his story continues to present day because God met him in his hideout (via a burning bush), and enabled him to team up with his brother Aaron and save God's chosen people, from whom's lineage Jesus came. Through set-backs (Pharaoh's stubbornness) and trials (idols and whining, disobedient people) Moses and Aaron are the human instruments of God used to bring freedom and fulfill God's promises to his people. Which is an awesomely big and great calling--too great to comprehend. And Moses couldn't comprehend it. God knew that. So he gave Moses little callings along the way. Sometimes he followed them, sometimes he didn't, but in it all God loved him, never gave up on him and used him to lessen the suffering of others.
Lord, please let me rest in this new perspective today and always.
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: