Here I Am. Can I Miss Out On God’s Calling?Essays, Featured — By Ross Gale on May 28, 2012 at 8:40 am
I was a business major at a small private Baptist college. I chose business because they had a strong business program. They also had strong Theology and Missionary programs. When the college started that’s all they had. Some people still called it the College of the Worthless Degree.
A Bible professor told us a story about a would-be-missionary. Instead of answering God’s call to go to Asia, the Would-Be-Missionary (or WbM) opted out, married, and had children. The WbM regretted his decision according to the Bible professor. He regretted his cowardice. He regretted that instead of crying out, “Heneni.” “Here I am.” Like Isaiah with the angels in the presence of God. He whispered a feeble, “No thanks.” By not answering God’s call, the WbM missed out on the main calling of his life. “God would continue meeting his needs,” reassured the professor. “But the rest of his life would be…boring, calling-less.” The moral to the Bible Professor’s story: Don’t miss out.
I imagined standing at a train dock, searching the horizon for a billow of steam, and listening for the shrill whistle and the wood beams vibrating beneath my feet. The God-conductor’s bellow, “All aboard.” I lived in a constant state of fear of missing the train, of living in limbo the rest of my life, of not calling out, “Heneni,” when my turn came.
When My Turn Came
Shortly afterward, in a writing class, the professor told me I needed to change my major and focus on writing. I switched majors, then I transferred to another school and moved an hour north to one of the most unchurched cities in the country. A city with more strip clubs per capita then Vegas. I took every writing class offered, I published a poem, I graduated.
Writing takes one to more metaphorical jungles than real ones. And while I could proclaim the gospel in writing it wouldn’t be well received even in some Christian circles, because everything in stories has to be earned, has to be deserved, even the gospel, even Christ. So I went to work trying to earn my keep, learn the craft, live up to this vocation and hang on the careening curves of the God-called train. For this was my calling, right?
The funny thing about vocations is…
…They’re no vacations.
I questioned whether I got on the right train or whether I boarded a train at all. My writing life was full of failure and volunteering for God couldn’t have failure. I mean, what’s the point then? Where’s God in that? I’d boarded the graduated loser train to Nowhereville. The student debt train. The unpublished train. The lonely, forlorn train.
I’d missed out, hadn’t stayed vigilant throughout the dark night. My train whizzed off into the distance without me. I should have stayed in the Bible College. Earned my business degree. Created jobs. Evangelized to needy customers. I imagined God shrugging, “I’ll still meet your needs, but…
…You’re no missionary.”
A pastor once told me God puts us in a garden bordered by a fence. The fence was some sort of moral guarding and God didn’t care if we went to the south garden and painted or if we pranced around the northern square feeding orphans and delivering groceries for widows. He gives us the freedom to move and live. Going outside the boundaries to pursue what we wanted or to go where we pleased wasn’t a part of that freedom. And maybe the analogy has its flaws, but the metaphor lifted the burden of possibly missing out on something God had purposed, something with an expiring contract that could be whisked away if I didn’t answer soon enough.
God’s calling freed me.
So I continued to write. I earned my Masters in writing and started a job with writing responsibilities. I continued to receive a steady stream of rejection letters for my stories. The student debt piled higher. I no longer have a measuring stick or a stat counter of success for this vocation. I’m just dedicated to the work, to the stories and characters and words. Trying to earn my keep.
It’s a new struggle filled with more failures. And every day I rise, I clear my throat, and I say loud enough for me to hear, “Heneni.”