Blessed and Affirmed:
The Challenge of Knowing You Are Called by God
The title of this article might seem presumptuous to many of you, hence the word “challenge”. It is one thing to trust that there is a Higher Power at work in the universe, it is another thing to trust that this Higher Power loves you deeply and fully and desires your flourishing. It is yet another thing entirely to trust that this Higher Power has called on you in particular to bear particular fruit in a particular season of your life. Universal love feels generous; particular call feels selective, exclusive, elitist, dangerous.
Often we start by struggling to trust that we are lovable, forgivable, worthy. If we find our legs in this walk (called redemption), we then learn to steady ourselves over time so we don’t fall back into old patterns of self-harm and self-hate. The question is, what comes next? What does a redeemed person (someone who knows at their core that they are of great value to God) do in their new status as beloved? John the Baptizer told his followers that their primary responsibility was to bear fruits worthy of repentance, to act in a way that demonstrated their desire for alignment with the mind of God.
Here I must admit a conviction that I hold which you may not: all people, especially those who find themselves redeemed, have been called by God to service in the Kingdom (being established here and now). You, my dear reader, have a ministry (or ten) which you have been and are currently being equipped to carry out, whether you know it or not. How do I know this, you ask? I wouldn’t say I “know” it, I would say I am committed to it, like I am committed to the Way of Jesus. I see this conviction as part and parcel with the Way of Jesus.
Being a servant of a human master has a certain amount of role clarity. The master sets the agenda, and the servant carries out that agenda. The servant knows who (and how) to ask for further instructions, and usually (hopefully) receives explicit directives. Serving the Master of all masters, the One Lord of heaven and earth, is a bit less clear. What exactly am I supposed to do? And how will I know if I have succeeded? Can I even “succeed”, or am I merely part of a generations-long unfolding of righteousness? How do I know that what I am doing is serving You and not simply my own ego-identity? These questions are central to the dilemma of being called by God, even if one is feeling blessed and affirmed in that call.
During this Christmastide, we will be looking at the affirmations of Jesus’ call to serve through the lens of our own calls to minister to God ’s beloved creation. Specifically, we will look at what holds us back from claiming our identity as redeemed servants on a mission for our Lord. If this language makes you uncomfortable, I ask you to trust that I am not saying something new, but reclaiming something deep from our tradition, something the world deeply needs.
As the church of this neighborhood, we are here as ambassadors for our God, and for the Son, and for the Spirit. And if you don’t feel qualified to represent this triune God, you are in good company. But don’t for a minute let your fear of failure prevent you from following your call. Jesus doesn’t prevent us from failing; Jesus is the One who makes it possible for us to fail.
St. Paul, when reflecting on his defects of character, said: “Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.' So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Cor. 12:8-10