In February, I went to California with several dozen young adult missionaries from various other service programs around the country. We were participating in a retreat that was designed to give us some time away from the stress of the everyday to discern God’s calling on our lives. There was a small part of me that wondered why I even agreed to go, considering that at that moment, I had the rest of my near-future mapped out for myself. I had decided that God was calling me to work in food justice. I was planning on heading to culinary school after my service term was over, then getting my M.Div. so I could help feed hungry people. It sounded like a great plan to me. Until I went to California.
I wasn’t actually feeling called to go to culinary school, or seminary, or really anything for that matter. And for a while, that made me angry with God. I felt abandoned. Deep down, I think I also felt entitled. I felt as though God owed me some great calling to ministry. Almost as though following God this far was just a down payment, and I was waiting for the payoff that came with my good behavior.
So, since God was obviously not going to tell me what I was supposed to do, I started trying to manufacture my own calling out of things I enjoyed doing. I like to cook? What’s a way I can make that into a calling from God? Food justice? That sounds good. I guess I’m called to work in food justice. Problem solved.
Except, the main issue with that, is that when you make decisions on God’s behalf, they’re very rarely the right decision. I almost spent several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to become certified to do something I wouldn’t be happy doing. Why? Because I’m impatient.
I sought out some one-on-one time with one of the leaders of the retreat on the third day I was there. The question I had for him was one that embarrassed me; “I did the opposite of what most of these people did. I came here with a clear calling in my head, and I feel like I’m leaving without any direction at all. What do I do?”
He asked me questions about where I wanted to be. This made me uncomfortable, because I knew the answer, but I figured that wasn’t where God was calling me. It was just where I wanted to be. The easy path. But he told me two things that I think are so important:
- God’s timing is not our timing.
In the book of Luke, we meet Simeon, who was told he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Some historians in the Eastern Orthodox Church believe that Simeon was over two hundred years old when this finally happened. Simeon, in this case, was called to wait. A long time. And I’m sure there were plenty of times when he doubted he would ever see Christ, but God followed through with that promise.
- It doesn’t have to be difficult or scary for it to be what God wants from you.
Sometimes I think we feel like we have to sacrifice what we believe will make us happy in order to follow God. Like we need to be miserable or struggling in order for the work to matter. But while we may sometimes be called to, “Leave everything and follow,” sometimes we’re called to stay put and do good work where we are. God’s call is different for everyone.
So I am answering the call to wait. And as this leader told me, waiting is not a passive thing. There is a lot of work in waiting. There’s a chance to learn and to grow and to prepare so that when God calls you to move, you’ll be ready.
Tacoma Community House, Tacoma, WA
US-2 Class 2014