Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105
The other day I had a great breakfast with a young youth worker. His name is JD and he is right in the middle of working out God’s unique call on his life. He is paid very part time by a church in our area and lives in intentional community where he, and his peeps are striving with all their might to reconcile the difficult teachings of Jesus with their lives. (You know the ones; blessed are the meek, the poor, not serving money, sharing possessions, etc.)
I love any time that I can get with JD because he is both smart and deep. And while this makes for great conversation, it is his character that ends up encouraging me, challenging me, and spurring me toward Christ. He does not settle on just finding the right answers, but is making the hard choices as he strives to live them out.
As much as I love JD, we could not be more opposite in our season of life, the calling God has put on our heart, or the manner in which that calling is worked out. I am a married man with two kids and am called to love and serve the suburban institutional church. JD is a single man living in intentional community and proximity to other young adults to work out their faith together as expand their community to the poor and marginalized.
Although we come from such different places in life and have such different callings in the Body of Christ, our friendship grows. This affection grows because, despite our exterior differences, we share a similar understanding of calling and recognition that we are always in process as we move closer and closer towards Christ. In our time together we touched on four good truths to remember as I continue to work out my own calling.
1) Take the plank out of your own eye. I am naturally a cynical and judgmental person. It is always easier for me to take someone else’s idea or work, and then point out all of the errors. (not grammatical ones of course, as obvious by my posts) And while it always make me taller by standing above someone else, this judgmental attitude stunts my own growth.
You see, the more effort I spend pointing out others’ issues and faults, the less time and effort I have for my own. If I am going to be all God has for me to be, the bulk of my work has to be done in humble self reflection. Then and only then can I begin to see that the world does not revolve around me, and not everyone is supposed to have the same gifts, same perspective, and same calling as me.
2) We have unique callings on our lives. Because our world is so complex and because God has made us all so different, it makes sense that we should all have distinct and unique callings on our lives. Not all of us can be called to the urban poor, or to Mongolia, or to fight sex trafficking, or to suburban students. In fact, there isn’t even a higherarchy of calling. There is a simple and humble recognition that God has uniquely made us and uniquely called us, and our job is to be faithful to whatever that is.
3) Our calling it to a very unique and particular group of people. Part of our conversation today revolved around Rob Bell’s newest book. It is causing quite a firestorm, and JD was mentioning that John Piper even questioned his salvation. (This is an entirely different post for another day) But what stuck with me is that Bell is called to be a prophetic voice to his people. His people and context is the Dutch Reformed ultra churched people of Grand Rapids. Piper is called to be a prophet to the greater Minneapolis region. Their context requires different sorts of content and presentation. And this is true for me in my context.
The way in which I share the gospel story is very different than my friends who are doing student ministry in other parts of the country. And if I had friends in other parts of the world, I would realize my telling of the story is even that much more different. The same is true for the manner in which I program my student ministry. Our calling is often to a very specific group of people in a very specific context. We must be on our A game as we seek to contextualize the gospel in our area, and be gracious to our sisters and brothers who are working out different callings and passions in different contexts.
4) We work out our calling by staying in motion. Thankfully God never paints for the entire picture of our life or gives us a road map for the next 50 years. The passage in Psalms is a great reminder of how God reveals the calling he has on our lives. He is a lamp to our feet. God is usually really great about showing us the next step or maybe next two, enough to move in a direction. But the path will not get further illuminated unless we start to walk down it.
If we wait until we know all the answers we will be stuck where we are forever. If we speak out of turn and are too bold with where the path takes us, there is a good chance we will be eating some humble pie someday. I have found the best way to discern my call is to start moving in the direction it seems like God is leading. And sure enough, God always seems to reveal the way.
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The best part is that my time with JD was more of a blessing to me, then me imparting wisdom toward him. When we intentionally rub shoulders with people who are passionate about their faith and intentional about working out their calling, we can not helped but be sharpened. We so need community when we work out our calling, and I am so thankful for my diverse community that continues to refine, encourage the dynamic implications of my eternal call. Thanks JD.
(this is just because i couldn’t get it out of my mind all day, enjoy)