Friday, February 22, 2013

God's Call 1

Ark of the Covenant
Sometimes when I've been wrangling with a particular spiritual topic, I can find help in the unlikeliest of places.  Facebook may be a tool we use here at Maidservants of Christ, but I never expected to find food for my own thoughts there.  Then I ran across this quote:

The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

I had never heard of Frederick Buechner, the author and theologian who made this statement, but it struck a chord with me.

I've been thinking a lot about God's call.  You see, I grew up with the worldview that God calls specific people for very specific works.  I never really understood how that call worked.  Did a man just hear God whisper in his ear that he should be a preacher?  What if I never heard that whisper?  Is it because I wasn't listening or because God only had specific jobs for the missionaries and preachers of the world?  How do people know God is talking and it isn't just their own voice?  

The people I worship with now have a very different view.  They dislike the term "calling," and tend not to use it at all.  For them, all Christians have the general call to be holy, to bring others to Christ, to obey the Scripture, but choices like marriage, career, and children are wholly up to the individual.  No one is "called" to a specific work.  

This position on calling was very comfortable for me.  I had never heard a whisper in my ear, and it was much easier to believe it didn't exist than to think I missed mine.  Over time, though, I couldn't quite reconcile a "no calling" standpoint with what I saw around me.  For instance, before Helene and her husband made the decision to sell everything and move overseas, they heard a few presentations on teaching abroad.  Both of them were really upset without talking to each other about it.  They were upset to the point of physical symptoms like insomnia, stomach aches, restlessness.  They had no peace until a decision was made together.  God broke their hearts, and I could never argue that God didn't call them to move where they did.

Then I saw the above quote on facebook at the same time that I was reading about the building of the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle.  You know, that part of Exodus we all like to skim?  This time I read a little closer. 

Then the LORD said to Moses,"See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts--to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship" (Exodus 31:1-5).  

God had given Bezalel the talent to work with metal and wood, and he expected him to use it.  Granted, at this time, God audibly told Moses what Bezalel was to do, and Moses passed that information on, but the fact remains that God wanted Bezalel to use his God given talents in His service.

We also have examples in the New Testament of people using their skills and resources to honor God.  Dorcas was "always doing good and helping the poor" (Acts 9:36), partly by making clothing for the widows.  What made Dorcas deeply glad?  Making clothing.  What was a deep hunger she saw?  Clothing widows.  In this sense, Dorcas was called to her work.  

So one way we are called by God is by virtue of our skills.  (Notice, I said one way.  I am not done learning about God's calling, but I already know that sometimes we are called to do things we feel utterly unequipped to do.  More on that next week.)    This method of calling seems to fall somewhere between the two extremes of an audible whisper and no call at all.  Perhaps the preacher is called to preach because he is good at it!  

That's all well and good for the preacher, but what about us?  We are in the business of taking a hard look at ourselves in the light of the Word of God and changing as needed.  First of all, I don't think I need to go on some journey of self-discovery to see what my hidden talents are.  I'm a pretty modest person.  I'm not brilliant in any skill.  But I have enough self-awareness to know that I have things I can do, and resources I can use. Every good gift is from above, including my modest talents and limited assets.  I'm not a French chef, but I can cook a mean lasagna.  I enjoy studying the Bible and sharing what I've learned.  Some of my skills I take for granted.  The ability to drive might seem unimportant, but for the older adults with low vision, it could be just what they need.  Even just having a car is a resource I can use. What about you?  I know you have skills too, and they don't have to be hidden or magnificent.  Join me in the coming days to start using those skills in the King's service. 
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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