Posts tagged calling
There is an incredible lesson to be learned in the life of David, this man who was recognized as something special when he was just a young boy. There were several times over the course of his life when it was apparent to everyone that he was destined for greatness. In fact, long before he ascended to the throne, the people knew that he would one day become their king.
It seems that no one doubted David’s greatness. Even Saul, who opposed David at every turn, seemed to know the inevitable outcome of his ill-fated attempts to thwart David. No matter who came against David, he would ultimately prevail. Sure, he would have some temporary setbacks, but in the long run, David was going to win.
David was a valiant warrior, respected by just about everyone he came in contact with and yet, he was unable to fast-track himself to the throne. Like all of us, David had to wait. There would come a time in David’s life where he got to call the shots – where he was in control (or seemingly so) of his own destiny. But in order for that to happen – for him to ascend to that position – he would first have to put his life in the hands of God. He would have to surrender control and come to the uncomfortable realization that there was nothing he could do to make things happen.
For David, it was like he had gotten the direct-dial number to throne, only to be put on hold. Most of us have had similar moments in our life – where we feel like we know what our future is or should be, but we feel completely powerless to affect that future. Personally, I have had times in my life where I felt like I was supposed to take a certain job, but the job hadn’t been offered to me. I didn’t have the option of walking into somebody’s office and saying, “God wants you to give me this job.” (They typically call security when that kind of person comes for a visit!)
So what do you do in those circumstances? You wait. You do everything you can to be obedient and you wait for God to open doors – to set things up. For David, that was a long wait. For you and me, it may be longer. But we can’t allow time to dictate our calling. If you feel called to something, cling to it. That doesn’t mean that you stop functioning in the “now” as you wait for the future. It just means that you don’t have to put that calling – that dream that God placed in you – on the shelf.
Are you called to be a writer, but have no chance of getting a publisher to read your manuscript? Great! Keep writing and honing your craft and see what doors God opens down the road. Struggling musician? Same thing. Feel like God wants you to have kids, but you are unable to? Focus on what you can do for kids and seek God’s guidance and wisdom. He has an uncanny ability to open our eyes to possibilities that we never considered before.
It is quite possible (even probable) that God has called you to something that will not come to fruition in the next week, month or year. For some, God may have called you to something that won’t materialize for decades. That doesn’t make the calling any less true. It just means that you have to wait – and to grow in the waiting.
Imagine if David, the arrogant young warrior who defeated a giant, had been anointed king that day. Imagine that young boy being given the keys to the kingdom – the power, the prestige. It could have been disastrous. So, what did he have to do? He had to wait. And as he waited – as he went through all of the ups and downs that come with being a polarizing, special individual – he was being prepared for his calling.
May you and I recognize today that God is preparing us for our future calling. May we enter into our day fully devoted to the pursuit of God’s desires for us and yet, willing to wait for his lead as he opens and closes the necessary doors to lead us to our place of calling.
Swagger. That’s the word used in sports to describe a team or individual that has a special winning attitude – a sense that they can’t be beaten. Inevitably, when a team is making a championship run, commentators and columnists will start using the word swagger. A team with swagger can stand up to adversity. A team with swagger can summon unbelievable strength and skill at will. A team with swagger can play way better than the sum of their parts. Swagger is part of the equation of winning in any sport.
So, too, it must be with prophets. Reading these passages about Elijah and Elisha, I’m struck by the swagger that these two had. In fact, it’s startling and almost offensive just how confident these men are. Not only are they confident in the words they speak, but they are so confident in their mission that they seem to nonchalantly bring death and destruction on those who oppose them. When I read a story like Elisha being teased by a group of boys, calling down a curse on them, and watching two bears come out of the woods and maul them, it makes me wonder if this guy had a little too much swagger.
Yet, when you dig a little deeper into these stories, you realize that the swagger that Elijah and Elisha had was not of the self-confident, arrogant variety. Instead, their swagger was derived from a profound sense that God had called them to something. They had an uphill battle – to restore respect, honor and reverence for God among the leaders and people. They had been called to help people understand that there is one true God and that he is to be respected.
It stands to reason, then, that if you disrespect the ones sent by God, that you are disrespecting the one who sent them. And so, God deals with those who disrespect Elijah and Elisha. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but God knows that entire generations can be saved through the death of a few. In some ways, this is God’s “last ditch MO” – where he goes when all else fails. Destruction for the sake of salvation. Whether it’s destroying a few boys, fifty men, whole cities or even flooding the entire earth, God is willing to go to extreme measures to wake his people up.
And, lest we think God’s destruction is too harsh or is an act of selfishness, we must remember that his ultimate act of destruction was the destruction of himself, in the form of Jesus, for the sake of the salvation of the world.
The anointing of Saul as king is a pretty strange series of events. First, the people of Israel ask for a king and, though God doesn’t want to, he gives them a king. The king he gives them is Saul, a guy who never went looking for power, authority or kingship. Actually, he just went looking for his donkeys. Then, after choosing and anointing Saul as king, God, through Samuel, reminds the people of Israel how evil it was for them to ask for a king in the first place. But, Samuel says, everything will still be OK if they follow and obey God.
There’s a pattern found throughout Scripture of the people doing wrong and then God redeeming it – not only redeeming the people, but the act itself. Here, for instance, the people want a king (something that God deems as evil), then God redeems that desire by choosing a king for them and anointing him with power and prophetic gifting and the rest.
For Saul’s part, his lack of eagerness to be king can clearly be seen as he hides out among the supplies so that he won’t be identified by Samuel. I know of countless leaders, myself included, who have tried the “hiding out” technique to avoid being identified, plucked from obscurity and called out as a leader. Unfortunately (or, I guess, fortunately), when God has chosen someone, no matter how much they try to hide out, they’re going to stick out in a crowd just like Saul – head and shoulders above everybody else.
Who knows why or how God chooses to weave his good and perfect will into the broken, messed up decisions that we make? Why would God choose a king for the people when he didn’t want them to have a king in the first place? Why would he choose a guy like Saul? Why would he choose to bless Saul and Israel even though the people had sinned in even asking for a king? These are questions that only God can fully answer, but as we dig into the rest of 1st and 2nd Samuel, I think some of these things will become a little more clear.
It seems innocuous enough – that little Bible sitting in the hotel room drawer. “Placed by the Gideons,” is what the inscription reads. Most people assume that some sweet old guy named Gideon donated a bunch of money to buy Bibles and place them in hotel rooms. But if you happened to pick up one of those books and flip over to the book of Judges, chapter 6 and 7, you would quickly realize that the namesake of the free Bible people was actually the William Wallace of his day – the “Braveheart” of Israel.
Gideon, of course, like so many Biblical heroes, was somewhat of a reluctant leader at first. The story of his calling seems to echo the calling of Moses. He had an incredible encounter with God, and yet he still needed a little more convincing that what he was being told was the truth. For Moses, it was a matter of arguing with God about Moses’ qualifications for leadership. For Gideon, it was an argument about God’s qualifications, as well as his own:
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (Joshua 6:13)
The thing that struck me as I read this passage was Gideon’s lack of first-hand experience with God. “Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about?” he asked. In other words, he had heard about the greatness and the power of God, but he hadn’t witnessed it. God, of course, reassures Gideon and even gives him two signs that what Gideon is hearing are truly the words of God. And, eventually, Gideon’s eyes are opened and he is terrified (because he had heard that no one could see the face of God and live.)
Armed with the kind of confidence that comes from hearing from and seeing the angel of the Lord, you would think that Gideon would be immediately ready to go and take the land of Midian. And yet, God would have to give Gideon another little nudge:
During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. (Judges 7:9-11)
You see, it should have been enough for God to say “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands.” But Gideon latched onto the next sentence: “If you are afraid to attack, go…and listen to what they are saying.” Gideon needed one more assurance from God and God gave it to him. Which begs the question: how much patience does God have regarding our obedience when he calls us to something.
I thin the short answer is that he has as much patience as he needs to have. I know that in my own life, there have been times when I have been a little slow to respond to God’s calling. Sometimes, I think he simply moved on from me and had someone else accomplish the task. Other times, I think he waited on me, ever so patiently, and continued to call me to be part of his plan. The one thing I’ve never felt, though, was that God was angry with me or punished me for seeking clarification from him (like Gideon did.)
Let’s face it, there are a lot of thoughts that run through our minds and maybe only a fraction of them are from God. For me, my constant prayer has to be, “God, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I just need you to make it clear.” Then, when I begin to feel God tugging at me to embark on some part of his plan, I pray a version of that prayer again. “God, if this is what you want, I’ll do it, but I need you to make it clear.” In praying that prayer, I’m also often encouraged by Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he prayed that God would take another course of action. It is the same kind of prayer – one of submission and clarification of mission while also voicing human concerns. I don’t believe that those kinds of prayers fall on deaf ears. Gideon’s prayer was heard and answered affirmatively. Jesus’ prayer was heard and answered with an unfortunate, “no”. In both cases, God was definitely listening.
Our baby Lucy is two months old today. As we celebrate the joy (and sleepless nights) she has brought to us, I want to share with you a letter I wrote just a few short months ago. It was a particularly frustrating day (there have been many during this process) and I wrote this letter, which I only shared that day with my incredible wife. I share it today with you because I know that some of you are where we were that day, some of you have been or will be soon. For others, it may simply be good to catch a glimpse inside the mind of an adoptive parent to maybe understand what it is that drives us to make the choices we do. There are others more passionate and those whose journey has been far more difficult, but this is just a bit of our journey…and a bit of our calling.
The adoption journey that we have been on has been a long one, but it has taught us many things. We have tried, through it all, to remain open to all possibilities and to stretch and grow in the process. As a result, we have wrestled with many of the tough questions of adoption: “What are the challenges of having a multi-racial family?” “How do we handle the unknowns of a child’s medical or psychological history?” “Are we willing to do what is necessary for our child to develop emotionally and physically, even if that means making a greater sacrifice than we’re even currently aware?”
The answer to the last question is a resounding “YES!” You see, we’re not adopting just because we want children, although we do. We’re not adopting through CPS because it’s less expensive than other means of adoption, although we’re happy it is because it allows more opportunities for more families to adopt and more children to find permanent homes. We’re not looking to adopt a child of another race because “that’s what’s available”, though we are fully aware of the high number of minority children entering the system every day.
The reason we desire to adopt a minority child through CPS is that we care for these children. We have a loving home ready and waiting for a child who is in desperate need of a loving home. We understand that raising a child, no matter what his or her background is or needs are, presents parents with daily challenges that sometimes seem insurmountable. And yet, we look to the great examples of our friends and family who have walked through incredible adversity to make a way for their children to grow up in a loving, safe and nurturing environment.
We don’t see the world through rose-colored glasses. We don’t view children as constantly laughing, smiling and playing. We understand that every child brings with him or her a personality that will range from euphoric to enraged, a body that will regularly produce dirty diapers, runny noses and physical ailments and a mind that will grasp some things easily and struggle with others. Furthermore, we understand that every child is a “special needs” child and that it is up to the parents and, many times, medical and psychological professionals to help determine just what those needs are and the best course of action to take. We understand that raising a child means taking on the responsibility of another human being’s life and we take that responsibility very seriously. Yes, we are aware of the gravity of the condition that some of these children are in. That is the very reason that we want to rescue them.
In this journey, we are fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends, not only to lend encouragement and a helping hand, but also to advise us on the special circumstances of our family. In our immediate circle of friends, we have 10 multi-ethnic families, 7 of which are adoptive families. We have adult friends who were adopted into multi-racial families and who are very open about sharing their experience with us from the child’s perspective. We have a church family who has embraced not only multi-ethnic and adoptive families, but who have embraced the mission of adoption and caring for orphans.
Very close friends of ours have been adoption advocates for years. They recently set up a non-profit organization to help other families adopt and have raised tens of thousands of dollars in the past year alone to help fund adoption. Into their otherwise Caucasian family, they have added an African-American/Caucasian little girl and twin Asian/Caucasian girls. Other close friends recently adopted an African-American girl into their home. Other friends have adopted multiple African-American children. The bottom line is that we are a part of an incredible multi-ethnic community that not only accepts, but encourages and embraces diversity in our community and within our families.
As for us, we have spent the last three years discussing what it means to be a multi-ethnic family. We talk about it with our family and friends. We ask questions of other families and spend time with their kids. In our minds, we have made a shift to multi-ethnicity even if we don’t yet have children of a different ethnicity.
For us, however, it goes way beyond ethnicity. We are called to help children out of bad situations and out of “temporary” situations into a permanent, loving home. We take this responsibility very seriously. When we say “yes” to a child, it is a full-throated “YES” backed up by all the books we’ve read, prayers we’ve prayed, conversations we’ve had and children we’ve held. It is a “YES” to a long future with that child, whatever complications may arise. It is a “YES” to sleepless nights and tiring days, a “YES” to challenges and obstacles and a “YES” to the hopes and dreams of that child – hopes and dreams that may or may not be achieved, but which are always worth fighting for.
We have no illusions that this road will be easy, but we know it is worth it. We know we can’t rescue all the world’s orphans, but we can rescue some of them. We know that trials and pitfalls are in front of us, but we stand resolute to hold tightly to each other, to our children and to our God to see us through. This is why we are adopting. This is why our answer is “YES”. To that 2 year old, set of twins or group of siblings, our answer is YES. Please let them all know that our answer is YES.