posted by Amy on Oct 14
Most of the time, when I tell someone who knows me at all well about my call to ministry, the first words out of the hearer’s mouth are “I’m not surprised.” What’s interesting about that is I was very surprised. “Stunned” would be a better word for it.
Here at seminary, all the classes start with some sort of text upon which to reflect, and a prayer. Dr. Itapson, my Old Testament Pentateuch teacher, has made a point of reminding us why we’re all here, and that it’s not just to go to school and study and get good grades. Before one class session he had us read about Jeremiah’s call. (Jeremiah 1:4-10). As always seems to happen, the called one argued with God. Jeremiah said, “I am only a boy.” They always raise some objection.
Of course they do. Nobody wants this job, as far as I can tell. Nobody, when called, says, “You know, God, that’s just what I was thinking I should do. I’m glad you asked. Sure, I’ll turn my life upside down and do as you say. Where do I sign?” I have formed this opinion both from biblical accounts and from asking classmates.
There are two things about it that I want to point out. One is that God never makes anybody do anything. We always have a choice. The trouble is, until we do it God’s way, we’ll never be happy. The other point is the reciprocal of that one. When we finally do say yes, then we see what was missing before, what we longed for and sought so earnestly, and could not find. Then we can be happy. This is the happiest bunch of people I’ve ever seen. The professors are happy, the students are happy, the administrators are happy. It’s contagious. On our first day of orientation, the leader said “God has called each one of you to be here, with all the others, for a purpose.” I can hardly wait to find out what that purpose is.
Some of my classmates are in their twenties. They went to Bible college and always planned to go into ministry. Most of them are more like me. They have day jobs, or kids, or they left another career to pursue this one, or all of the above.
God has been calling me for quite some time, but I thought I was imagining it. I thought it was some kind of grandiosity on my part. I often felt touched, moved, stirred, but I always mistook it for something else. So I tried everything else first–personal relationships, career, church, secular public service, goal setting, trying to find the right balance between earning and spending money, trying to fill the emptiness that no one but I (and God) could see. There were nudges, inklings, before the day that I finally heard the call so clearly that it could no longer be discounted or ignored, but until that moment, I had no idea. Then it hit me. Four months after a friend said to me, “Amy, have you considered the possibility that you’re being called to ministry?” I woke up one morning with the seemingly sudden realization that I had to do it.
The second most common reaction to my news is more or less evenly split between, “I admire your courage” and “I envy you.” I can understand people thinking this takes guts. It looks like a really gutsy thing to do but, for me, it was a lot harder to keep doing what I was doing before.
That requires some explanation. I am a good lawyer. I had some measure of success and acclaim. I was well respected. I liked my work, especially in the 6 years that I had a solo practice. It was different every day. I was rarely bored, and I felt competent and appreciated, most of the time. But even with all that, something wasn’t right. My heart wasn’t in it. After 28 years — all that money and all that time invested in that career — it didn’t seem right to walk away, but it was getting harder and harder to find satisfaction in it.
Once I decided that God wanted me to do this, and I agreed to it, everything changed. I was happy. I was relieved. I just knew that it was what I had been seeking all along. That is not to discount the importance of anything else I have done up until now. To my way of thinking, it is all a seamless process, a coherent story. The thing that would have taken courage would have been to ignore the very clear message about what God wants me to do. I think we can only get away with turning our backs on God until the message finally gets too loud to ignore. Then, although God always gives us a choice, we realize there’s only one viable choice.
As for those who feel envy, I think that’s good. That means you’re on the right track. I remember hearing about other people who made a dramatic “course correction” in their lives, and thinking, “Boy, I wish I could do that. That sounds really great.” That eventually led me to the realization that I could do it too. We’re not all being called to ministry, but we are all being called to some kind of greatness. What do you think of that? Think you’re not great? Who are you to make that kind of judgment? Every single person on this planet is God’s child, a unique, never-to-be-repeated expression of God. Of course you’re great. How are you going to express that? This isn’t a dress rehearsal, you know. It’s time to get busy.
Now isn’t that better than confining your energies to deciding what to have for dinner tonight? That is not to say that menu choices aren’t important, but don’t you have some longing for meaning, some desire to make a difference, some vocation? And if you followed it, what do you think would happen?
What have you got to lose by finding out? Your old familiar life? Sure, but do you actually like your old familiar life? Think about it. Chances are, your objections are nothing more than excuses. What would you do if there were no barriers, if you had all the money in the world and no other challenges? What would make your heart sing? That thing, whatever it is for you, is what you should be doing now. You have a destiny to fulfill. If you’re already doing that, then you aren’t one of the ones who said to me, “I envy you.”
A third, and more rare, response is, “I couldn’t possibly work that hard.” In my case, I never really wanted to quit working. I often thought about a second career, running a nonprofit or doing some kind of community service, but I didn’t envision myself retiring in the sense of playing golf every day, or watching TV. For people who really like that sort of thing, that’s just fine. I am not judging. But to me it sounds like a prison sentence. I love to read, to think, to write, to discuss. I love God, and I can’t wait to find out how God plans to use me next. If I were not working, I would feel empty. If I were not praying and praising God, I would feel empty. Right now, even with the challenges and frustrations that I face, I feel whole. It’s an amazing feeling.
It hasn’t been easy. Moving out of my house and leaving Denver were extremely difficult for me. I still get lonely and homesick. And I haven’t figured out how to pay for it. With two houses to sell, in this economy, I’m sometimes on edge about the practical details of this venture. But I’m not going to worry about it. Frankly, since I was making my living as a real estate lawyer before, I might be facing a huge slowdown in work right now anyway, and without the wonderful diversion of school, and without the safety net of student loans. I’ll figure it out.