It is so easy to lose the wonder that is our salvation. Most people settle for a neutered faith, one in which they (we/I) attend church, say a prayer occasionally, and read a verse from the Bible, never thinking that there’s more to life. There’s something special about finding and following your calling. When i first felt that I was called to youth ministry I was 17 and working at a summer camp in Md., it was something that I just knew I wanted to spend my life pursuing. There have been times when I’ve lost sight of the purpose of the call and pursued the call out of habit and because it was something I was just good at. When you find your call, and pursue it with a sense of purpose, you find a passion. God has planted a call in each of our hearts, find your call, pursue it, and pursue a passion that GOD has placed.
What happens when people like you and me no longer believe in God? When the reality of God is not reality in our everyday lives? When the decisions I make are not affected by the presence of God? Does my practical atheism cause me to become an alcoholic, drug-soaked, pornographic, adulterous leacher? Or does the absence of God cause something far more sinister, far more frightening? Does God’s absence make me sin, or does it make me…dull, lifeless, passionless? Does it rob me of the joy and wonder of meaningful work?
I would like to suggest that what a pagan culture does first is steal the wonder and mystery from life.
A pagan culture methodically takes away risk, danger, spontaneity, intuition, passion, chance, threat, and peril. We become the slaves of predictability, rules, policies, uniformity, and sameness. We learn how to teach, but we are not really teachers. We learn how to be ministers, but we are not really ministers. We train ourselves to be manicurists, doctors, engineers, athletes, but we are not any of those things. We have the training. We have the title. We have the credentials. But what is gone is the passion, the sense of belonging, the pleasure, the joy that comes from knowing you are called.
Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin, sure. But I would suggest that more than Jesus saving us from our sins, He saved us from meaningless, boring, predictable, shallow, empty, dehumanizing work. I am convinced that what characterizes people who know Jesus is not their lack of sin, but the presence of a radical, wild, mysterious calling from God.
I am embarrassed to say that until a couple of years ago, I had never seen a book by Arthur Gordon, A Touch Of Wonder. From the moment it was given to me, it has been a rare friend, a lingual mentor—a treasure I keep returning to. (I hope we all have books like that—cover faded and worn, the pages brown and cluttered with markings and hilighter, sprinkled with folded corners to mark those passages that have marked our souls.)
In A Touch of Wonder, there is a wonderful dialogue between Arthur Gordon and an old man he meets on the tawny marshes of the Georgia coast. The man is somewhat mysterious, shaman-like. There is magnetism about him, a gentle authority, an attractive strangeness, a holy knowledge about life. The old man is a teacher, and Gordon asks him what he teaches.
“In the school catalog they call it English,” the old man says. “But I like to think of it as a course in magic—in the mystery and magic of words…Words—just little black marks on paper. Just sounds in the empty air. But think of the power they have! They can make you laugh or cry, love or hate, fight or run away. They can heal or hurt.”
Oh, for an English teacher for whom words are magic, filled with mystery and power—an English teacher whose love of words overflows into his or her heart and soul, and whose students are not taught, they are caught,captured by words, intrigued by syntax, entranced by grammar, seduced into the mysterious land of sounds and meanings.
Arthur Gordon’s teacher/friend had found his calling. Teaching, for this teacher, was not a job. He was doing what he was made to do, what he was born to do—the only thing he could do.
The mission of the church in America is not only saving souls, it is saving people from a life without calling.
The Church, through Jesus, must save its people from a life of meaningless, unfulfilling empty work.
A member of my church does women’s nails. I doubt if there are many manicurists better than Elaine. Elaine recently told me, “Mike, I don’t do nails. Doing nails is nothing more than putting stuff on the ends of women’s fingers and painting it. What I do is listen to women talk. I cry. I laugh. I share in their pain. And I talk, too. After all, the women can’t go anywhere. Their hands are stuck in front of me for two hours. In fact, if I have a customer who doesn’t like to talk, I suggest that she go somewhere else, because I don’t just do nails.” Elaine is a minister—ministering with acrylic and polish—becoming a friend, confidant, listener, affirmer, counselor, advice-giver, evangelist. Elaine is the Minister of Manicures. What a calling!
A friend of mine spends his weekends and summers directing a junior high camp in the mountains. I asked him one day to describe his job. He replied, “I am a Memory Maker. I make memories for kids—memories that will live with them the rest of their lives.” A Memory Maker. You won’t find that on any list of approved classes for recreation majors. But that is because this friend doesn’t have a “job.” Rather, he is living in the calling of God.
I am always amazed when I read the story of Matthew, the wealthy tax collector—a man who had it made. Sure, Matthew was hated and feared by many, but he had it all—power, great wealth, and the support of the state. Jesus walked by and casually said to Matthew, “Follow me.” Ridiculous. Who in Matthew’s position would respond to some vagabond? But Matthew does exactly that! He immediately left his wealth and power and followed Jesus. What happened? I’ll tell you what happened. Matthew was called. Every bone in his body, every part of his being stood on tiptoe when the master spoke those words. “Follow Me!” Matthew’s ears tingled with excitement, his heart thundered with anticipation, his mind was filled with electricity. He had been called. He didn’t know it until that moment, but he had been waiting all his life to hear those words.
May God capture our unspoken dreams.
May Jesus speak those words that cause our souls to stand on tiptoe.
May each of us find our calling in Jesus.