On calling

There was that grade schooler today who said “Do you have a bird? You look like the type of person that would have a bird!” “Why do I look like I’d have a bird?! Do I look like a crazy bird lady?” “No! You’re so fun and so good with kids!”

It can take you right back to that moment when you’re 16 and lying on a flower-shaped, pale-pink shag rug on a cold floor. Your legs are up against the bed, and you’re in the mere second month of missing school. But amidst the painful throbbing, you have the time to think:

“I’m really good at a lot of things, but I’m not really great at anything. I’m not like Matt Law who can take the Bio SATIIs thinking he scored horribly and score an 800. I don’t have a subject that I have extraordinary talent in. I’m a good runner, but I’m not a varsity super-star. I’m strong at English and History, but I work hard at them.”

“You are great at working with kids. One day, you may find that even more useful than talent at math or science”*  (*more useful/more suited to me. Far be it from me to belittle those talents, as doctors have been the grace of God that have healed me before)

It’s that voice from left field, the still small one. The kind where the sentence isn’t the result of thought, but enters your mind fully formed. It’s God. You know. And you know He’s right. And you sense one of the things He wants you to do with it.

It turns out you can hear your call from God and just straight-up ignore it.

I’ve been the girl who let the phone go right to voicemail. I’m sorry God, I’m not here right now. I can’t do that thing you’re calling me to at the moment. Leave a message at the beep and I’ll get back to it as soon as it’s less painful or less tiresome or less scary.

Sometimes I straight up have called Him up and given him an ultimatum. I’m too busy dealing with my emotions about the situation you’ve placed me in to fulfill my call, God. If you really want me to get busy with this project, fix my life. I don’t have the emotional energy to fulfil a tough call when I’m saddled by all these other things.

ChildJoyce would be appalled at the way that AdultJoyce has withdrawn from children because of the after-pain of someone else having (and sometimes taking so for granted) what you so want. But she has. And it’s stopped her from pursuing one call strongly.

It’s a hard one. It’s a challenging one. But maybe true religion is saying “Your glory is worth my discomfort. It’s worth my blood. It’s worth my sweat. It’s worth my tears.” It’s becoming Christ. Because God’s not some prosperity promise but a despair promise: “I will be with you in all things. Even then.”

And just because it doesn’t feel good doesn’t mean it isn’t good. And any gospel of God that leaves out “pick up your cross and follow me” is a false gospel.

Wasn’t Jesus’ call also His pain?

Yeah, the weight of peoples’ pain can feel like a cross, but never forget it, Joyce, in God’s kingdom, every cross always serves a purpose. So don’t fear the cross, don’t run from the cross, don’t run through life pain-avoidant, because that is not the race that God has marked out for you. Your call can cause pain, your call can cause discomfort, but…

God’s glory is always worth your discomfort.

Say it over-and-over again. God’s glory is worth your discomfort. Godlessness is worse than sleeplessness. Say thanks in faith. Slow your pace and rest in Jesus. Pace is key in peace.

You might be in the three days between death and resurrection, where it seems impossible that good can ever come out of such an evil, but come Sunday morning, good can break out of an unbearable evil. As Ann Voskamp said, “Faith thanks God in the middle of the story” because “Faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance about what we do not see.”

Run your race to be loved by one who calls you beloved. Separation from Him becomes the only thing that can ever really break you. Oh love others, but do it from His love. Love others, but do it from His approval of you and them, not their approval of you.

Listen on the phone. Turn off the raging cacophony of voices on the television. Pick up that cross-shaped hard thing that he’s telling you to do, and by grace alone, answer that call that He’s written all over your heart.

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