In a small group at church last weekend, we were asked to complete the following sentence: “When I was 10, I wanted to be __________.”
While some folks had actual answers (the hands-down winner was “Seaworld dolphin trainer!”) it was apparent that none of us had become that which we thought we’d be. At least, not exactly.
Even if our life’s calling is not a clearly defined career path, we each have a set of inborn gifts and graces. Hopefully, we also bear an impulse to use those gifts in the world. If we are further compelled to seek God in the midst of those impulses, then what we have is vocation. Whether it comes with a paycheck or not, vocation gives meaning and shape to our days.
Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, however stubborn or senseless we may be to present realities, God is shaping us for a future purpose. It’s not that our life is planned for us, and that we have no say about anything… It is more that, in every time and place, God can teach us something useful. Whatever we may ‘grow up’ to be, we find that some seemingly insignificant moment, job, or relationship created a kind of sacred space in us. Within that space, we catch a glimpse of who we were created to be. It might be fleeting, but it’s there.
Once you’ve seen it, you know that in the minimum wage childcare job, God was teaching you the patience you’d need to be a parent. You know that, when you were serving your hours on the roadside crew, God was giving you the determination to become a teacher and shape young lives for good. You know that in the retail job, the food service job, the hotel front desk job, God was shaping a servant’s heart within you. Once you have glimpsed the sacred space of becoming, you know that something Holy moves you through seasons of unemployment, frustration, and even boredom. You know that through four changes of degree program, you were learning…something. And you know that every minute of your life’s rhythm is shaping you for something you will need to know, some day. Whether or not it comes with a paycheck.
When someone asks me how or when I felt called to ministry, I don’t really have a great story. In fact, I rarely tell the same story twice. Because i didn’t have a burning bush moment, a dramatic conversion, a miraculous recovery, or even a church camp Come to Jesus at Campfire thing. I sort of wandered my way into this life, and watched as every little fragment of my self and story clicked into place around it. It was all at once no big deal, and the coolest thing you’ve ever seen.
Which is why I kind of look around at my life every now and then and say, you know, I really caught a glimpse of this calling as a dance teacher. Whether I knew it or not. Or when I was waiting tables. Or when I found my first real soul friend in 7th grade. Or sitting on the porch with my Mamaw. Or reading the first few books that really blew the top off the world.
Add 100 little fragments like these together, and that is my call story. My witness to God working behind the scenes, in the cracks and crevices, in every waking, breathing moment, to shape some future time and place for me. But if you really want to put it in a nutshell…everything I really needed to know about ministry, I learned as a sorority rush chair.
1. If it fits on a t-shirt, it’s probably not that important. But
2. matching tshirts are still important, in a philosophical sort of way.
3. Fake it til you make it. The appearance of a growing organization will actually evolve into a growing organization.
4. Sleep deprivation is a bonding experience. (Rush week=mission trip, church camp, leadership retreat, Holy week, etc)
5. A beautiful, welcoming space is not an extravagance; it is hospitality.
6. Singing loudly is more important than singing well.
7. Manners, manners, manners.
8. Put the pretty people in front.
9. We’re all pretty people.
10. As long as there’s food, people are happy.
11. The more important a ritual is supposed to be, the more likely you are to laugh at inappropriate times.
11.5. Laughter=also a sacred ritual.
12. Voting people out will always come back to haunt you.
Once you’ve glimpsed the becoming space of the Spirit, there are no big moments, small moments, or waiting spaces. There is no downtime, and there is no endgame. It is all the perfect, winding way of grace, and it will always take us somewhere good. Eventually.