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Tag Archives: Calling

My Life Isn’t What I Thought It’d Be

On Sunday morning, I took the stage at my church. They wanted to hear my story and how I came to pursue missionary service. I told everyone that three years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would one day be standing in front of them all.

Several of my friends are preparing to graduate college in a few short weeks. I remember being in their shoes three years ago. At the time, I had no idea of the journey God would take me on.

My biggest dream was to be a book editor. I thought that was what I wanted to do with my life. Read other people’s stories and clean them up for the world to enjoy. I thought I would live in the United States with only occasional, brief trips to see the world. I thought I would be the Christian who stayed home, doing quiet good and inviting my neighbors to know God.

But as often happens in one’s early twenties, what I wanted changed. My dreams grew bigger. Beyond what I felt capable of achieving. Beyond what seemed feasible or practical.

Credit: Louis Vest (https://flic.kr/p/obARz7)

Credit: Louis Vest (https://flic.kr/p/obARz7)

I had the 9-to-5 editorial career and it wasn’t enough. I had a blog and enjoyed writing on the side, but I wanted to write more and I wanted it to be meaningful and important. I wanted something to be passionate about and to dedicate all my energy and love to. I wanted to fall into bed at the end of the day exhausted not from boredom but from accomplishing something that mattered.

In short, I felt restless.

Getting laid off gave me the push I needed to do something about it.

Now I’m in the application process of becoming a missionary in a ministry I’ve been privileged to visit and serve before. I told my church how God has placed one step after another to bring me on a great adventure beyond anything I could have planned myself. It’s an adventure that will require all of me, applying everything I’ve learned so far and all the passions that make me come alive. Everything is falling into its place. He is the great storyteller and it’s only in looking back that I can see the genius and grace in the plot line he’s written for me.

“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.” Psalm 77:19

How has God amazed you in writing your story?

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Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Other thoughts

 

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Ignoring Sensibility to Chase the (Impractical) Dream

I quit job searching today.

Before you ask, the answer is no, I did not get hired today. I should have gotten a call if my most recent application was accepted. But there was no call. And I’m done applying.

You might wonder what this means. Why does one stop applying for jobs before one is hired for decent work? To be honest, I feel a little crazy myself. It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t sound practical. But it’s the plan at least for until I move in a few months. When I resettle, I will reevaluate.

Last night, I realized that I’ve tried to do at least 97 different things with all of my “free time.” It’s left me unfocused and exhausted, and I knew something had to change. I then asked myself what it is that I’m most passionate about pursuing in this awkward, transitional season of my life. Immediately, my newest book project came to mind. Huh, I thought. Why am I not focusing on that first?

The answer came easily: I’m afraid. I’ve dreamed about being a full-time author since I was a child, but growing up all but strangled that dream. My dad once told me I’d better get used to eating ramen noodles if that’s the career I wanted. To fully pursue freelance writing would mean taking huge risks. What if I run out of money while working on the book? What if a publisher never takes interest? What if I can never finish the book? Perhaps worse, what if the book is published but fails? What if no one but my mother reads it and all that time and effort was wasted for nothing? I’d just be one more unnoticed wanna-be living with her parents because she was too impractical to get a “real job.”

All those lurking fears had convinced me that I didn’t actually want to write full-time. They lied to me. And I believed them. “It’s just a pipe dream. You could never really do it, so what’s the point trying?” they said. “Try, and you’ll only fail.” So I let fear paralyze me.

But I’m tired of being afraid.

What would it look like if I redirected my energy primarily into the new book? I mean really dedicate myself to it, excluding lesser priorities? First of all, I’d have to reclaim time from any distractions. Such as the many hours spent every week in job searching, writing cover letters, fine-tuning my résumé, and submitting applications. Wasted hours. What have they given me but disappointed hopes for jobs I wasn’t excited about in the first place? If I want to be an author, it’s about time I act on it and stop looking for other opportunities. If I don’t, I may never know if it is possible.

It’s a step of faithBy continuing to job search, I’m only looking for security. I know my passion, but I’ve doubted God’s provision and guidance, anxiously trying to find some “reliable” income. As if God isn’t reliable enough. As if every calling from God looks sensible to the world.

If I waste my time, at least it will be wasted chasing the dream and not by scrolling through job listings. If it doesn’t work and the book fails, I only prove I’m human. If it turns out this isn’t my calling, then God will use even my mistakes to teach me. He won’t abandon me because I took a wrong turn.

I’m done job searching because I have a job. I’m an author.

Update (2/25): That last application I mentioned? I got the call today. It turns out the manager was sick yesterday, which explains why I didn’t hear from her. So now I have a part-time job to support me while also leaving me enough time to continue writing. God does indeed move in his own timing and have a sense of humor.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Authors, Other thoughts

 

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“Here I Am”

After my boss told me about the company layoffs, I realized that I have the time to write this post. For one reason or another, I made other priorities. But now that excuse is no longer valid.

My job required frequent reading and study of the Bible. Some months back, I can’t remember exactly when, I came across Isaiah’s call to be a prophet. Recorded in Isaiah 6, the prophet has a vision of God’s throne. Isaiah is overwhelmed by his unworthiness to be in the presence of God. One of the creatures worshiping the Lord purifies Isaiah with a coal from God’s altar, thus making the prophet able to stand before God’s throne without guilt. Then in verse 8, God speaks from his throne, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Isaiah volunteers without hesitation, like a child eager to please his father. “Here I am! Send me.”

For the child, any opportunity to work with his father feels like a special mission just for him. It is an honor. Isaiah doesn’t know the job description yet. All he knows is that God has accepted him, and now he will take any task from his Father.

As I read this scene, it reminded me of God’s call to Samuel. He responded in a similar way even before he realized he had heard God’s voice. In 1 Samuel 3, the boy runs to his guardian, Eli, crying, “Here I am!” Confused, Eli sends the boy away. This happens twice more before Eli guesses that the Lord is the one speaking. Samuel had mistaken the voice, but he still had the right response. He got up from bed every time to obey the call. He came to Eli ready for whatever the priest had to tell him.

“Here I am.” These three words stuck with me ever since. Recently, I decided to see where else it appears in the Bible. It turns out that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and lesser-known Ananias all used this simple prayer. In each case, these words mean more than, “I’m listening.” Three short words succinctly express a willingness to hear God and a submission to his direction. These are words of obedience and service. The longer version would be: “Here I am, ready and willing. What do you desire or request? Say the word. Everything I am is yours.”

This prayer is not for the faint of heart. Abraham was told to sacrifice his heir and beloved son (Gen. 22:1-2).

Jacob was sent to his homeland, which he had fled in order to escape his brother’s vengeance (Gen. 31:11, 13). Later in his life, Jacob prayed this after hearing that his son Joseph was alive and a ruler of Egypt. God tells him to not be afraid to go to Egypt, where he would die and his descendants later became a nation in slavery (Gen. 46:2-3). Several generations later, Moses prays the same way when God calls to him out of a burning bush, and God sends him into Egypt to free his people. When David’s son Absalom rebels against him, David is forced to

A reminder I made for myself

A reminder I made for myself

retreat from Jerusalem. But he trusts God’s judgment and tells his priest, “If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him” (2 Sam. 15:25-26, emphasis added). Finally, there’s Ananias: the disciple in Damascus whom God chose to visit Saul of Tarsus, the Jewish militant arresting Christians (Acts 9:10-12). Ananias essentially says to God, “Are you kidding me?”

With these “encouraging” stories to guide me, I decided to take up the challenge. I re-evaluated my life and asked where God wanted me to go next. I prayed, “Here I am.” Pretty soon, God presented me with the opportunity to be a small group leader with students at my alma mater. The offer took me by surprise, and I had to stop and ask if it was really God’s voice. Sure, I had said the prayer, but this wasn’t the response I had expected.

Then this past week, my boss told me the bad news. Another surprise. Several positions, including mine, had to be cut from the company budget. Suddenly, I didn’t have work the next day. One phone call, and I had 40 extra hours of free time each week.

So here I am, Lord. Say the word.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

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Do Not Fear… God is with You

“Fear not; the things that you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.”

This morning, my pastor quoted this maxim of “real religion” from the Scottish philosopher and theologian John Macmurray. In contrast, Macmurray describes “illusory religion” as, “Fear not; trust in God and he will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you.” The illusory religion is a lie. Real religion, by Macmurray’s definition, recognizes that God does not spare his children from what scares them. Instead, God shows them that they do not need to be afraid.

Today, churches celebrated Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem in order to sacrifice himself on the cross (John 12:12-16). His sacrifice means our salvation from the judgment of our sins, namely, eternal hell separated from God. He gave himself to die so that we could be reunited with God–not to be saved from our temporal fears. Being a Christian does not mean salvation from suffering in this world. On the contrary, Jesus guarantees it. The night before he died, Jesus told his disciples that he would soon return to God the Father. He said to them, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” He warned them right there of the trouble to come, despite also promising them peace. “But take heart!” he continued. “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Yes, there will be trouble in this world, but Jesus has “overcome the world.” He has already won the war, and he has all power. The victory is his alone.

So even though our fears are “quite likely to happen,” what reason do we have to fear them? Why do we fear when the victor is on our side? The things we fear are not worth our worry. In Luke 12, Jesus teaches his disciples to trust in God and his goodness rather than to be afraid for their lives. He goes on to explain the provision of God and the uselessness of worrying about clothes or food. Rather than setting our hearts on these material things, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Why do we grasp for petty goods when God has given us his kingdom?

In my Perspectives class, we are learning about God’s kingdom and how he has called us to spread his kingdom throughout the world. Unlike human kingdoms, the kingdom Jesus meant isn’t a geographic-bound, royal state. It’s actually more about God’s glory and authority. This is more easily understood as a kingship rather than kingdom. When Jesus says God gave us his kingdom, it means we have been adopted into his family and have inherited his salvation and power. In other words, we are royalty. What do we have to fear when we have God’s kingship?

We get all the royal benefits–and responsibilities. Part of our inheritance is to carry on the kingship and spread the kingdom. Again and again in the Bible, God tells us to serve in his great work of extending the kingdom to all corners of the earth. God chooses to use his children in his plans, and the Bible shows many such examples. From one story to the next, God calls people to follow his instructions. To Moses, these marching orders were to rescue the Israelites from slavery and lead them into their promised homeland. To King David, God established a commitment to an earthly kingdom that would make his name known. To the prophets of Israel and Judah, God’s call told them to rebuke his people’s sins, exhort his people to return to him, and comfort them in his discipline. To the apostles, Jesus sent them into the world to announce the good news of God’s kingdom.

God has been in recent months calling me to his work with a stronger voice. The call gains more clarity as time goes on. Lately, I’ve been reading the prophets in the Bible and came to Jeremiah. As soon as I read his call from God, I knew God and I were in the same conversation. Jeremiah 1:4-8 reads:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.”

God leaves no room for excuse. Especially our fears, whether of rejection, failure, poverty, or even death. None of it matters compared to fulfilling our instructions from God. He already knows what scares us, but he promises that he is big enough and strong enough to be worthy of our trust. He says, “I am with you and will rescue you.” Yes, there is trouble in this world. There is pain and death. But we have the privilege to participate in our Father’s work here on earth, and in the end, God will still be with us to bring us home.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

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