This story is the next installment of my series to tell the tale of what God has done and what God is doing to call me to serve in a new place, in a new role, in a new way. This story actually precedes the conversation with Dr. Stafford in my previous post, and in many ways had this not happened there would not have been a place into which the seed of suggestion could have fallen so as to take root and grow. This is the story of the first time I can remember someone saying to me that I might consider a wider community for my calling.
I made my way through the maze of books and found a seat, tucked away in the corner of an office that seemed as much a library as anything. I’d like an office like that at some point, full of smart-looking books, all of which I’d read of course.
My professor had invited me to talk with him a bit in his office, and despite being 26, and despite having been out of college for 3 1/2 years, it was still a bit unnerving. As a first-year student at the Anderson University School of Theology, all of a sudden I felt like the elementary school kid asked to stay after class to talk to the teacher.
What does he want to talk about?
Did I screw something up?
Am I in trouble?
All the insecurities were there on the surface when he began to ask about my calling. With assurance and faithfulness, I reminded him that I had been called into youth ministry.
As he responded to the announcement of my call, I immediately found myself on the defense, riled up over the suggestion that I consider something broader.
“This is my CALLING, to serve and teach teens. They’re people too after all, and they’re stuck in a hellish world with few advocates, few people on their side telling them they can be more than just statistics of poor choices and apathy, or market-research targets for the next life-demeaning social experiment.”
“And no, this isn’t a stage of life thing! I’ll serve teens until I’m 80 years old or until God calls me to something different! I KNOW that lots of 20-somethings find themselves in youth ministry only to leave after a time (usually before their work is done), but I’m not going to let that be my mindset. I can’t! So thank you sir for your advice, and for your invitation for coffee to talk some more, but I’m going to follow my calling.”
I didn’t say any of this of course, only a mild, “I understand, but I really believe this is my calling. Thank you.”
But as I left I felt it. A small crack, a question, a bit of imagination, because after all, his suggestion came in the form of a compliment. My work had apparently shown that I had an ability to think big thoughts, and to weave them together well, something he felt the wider church needed.
…maybe this calling is more complex than I had ever imagined.
It was at that point, the point of imagination and curiosity, that my heart had been pricked.
And to this day my greatest regret from my time at the SOT is that I’ve yet to share in that cup of coffee, but maybe…