I recently heard a radio interview of a woman author, a doctor, who has written extensively on the topic of medical care as a calling. She argues that when doctors miss the sense of their work as a calling, and see their function more as a job or a career, they lose their enthusiasm and eventually experience burnout.
Our spiritual profession and the work we do connected to it are rightly deemed a calling. It has always been about a calling. The word ekklesia(translated “church”) literally means an “assembly”, the two root words are ek(out of), and kaleo(called). So church is made up of those who have been called out.
We too must retain our sense of calling. We must see every job performed in our daily lives, in churches and institutions as part of our calling. It seems like we talk more of our call to refer to the moment when we felt God was telling us how He wanted us to serve. We speak about the moment of decision when we threw our lot with Jesus, or chose to serve Him in ministry. I happen to remember the moment when, while watching a Billy Graham Association evangelist preach to thousands on TV, I felt strangely moved with the realization that we as a church were not reaching the world with such success. The compulsion was so strong that it brought me to tears, and within a year I had abandoned my plans to be a Biology teacher and enrolled in a ministerial program. For many, the call may be more of a process, which eventually leads to a commitment to ministry.
Could it be that with time we start allowing our sense of calling to be diluted by the perception that we are working a job like everybody else? For the past 20 years, I have had wooden statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza on my desk. The famous novel by Miguel de Cervantes written in 1612 tells of a middle-aged “hidalgo” (gentleman) who decides to live out his fantasy of knighthood and pursues a life of honor to win the favor of a peasant girl he imagines as a noblewoman. Throughout the acclaimed two-volume work, Don Quixote fights giants (windmills), rescues damsels in distress (who don’t need rescuing), and goes to prison, while his “shield bearer” (his earthy farmer friend Sancho) tries to bring him back to reality. Sadly, at the end of the story, Quixote has become the realist, while Sancho has started dreaming of greater things. A sense of calling feeds our healthy idealism.
The same doctor mentioned earlier shared that the opposite also holds. While a doctor who loses his /her calling will eventually burn out, the ones who hold on to their calling will accomplish much more and have a higher sense of life satisfaction. Ministry professionals can expect the same results.
We have a calling. God’s call to you and me is as distinct as we are unique. In the Bible people were called to come out, to stay still, to worship, to hide, to march, to walk on water, to repent, to open doors, to close doors, to hope, to forget, to forgive, and to trust. Your call is yours only, especially crafted in God’s mind for you.
Moreover, there is power in living our lives in response and in connection to our calling from God. We can do much more because we live in partnership with a powerful God. “If God is for us, who can be against us”? (Rom. 8:31). Marshall Bernadotte, the founder of the Swedish royal family, warned his troops 200 years ago: “The mere presence of Napoleon on the battlefield is worth 100,000 men.” Remember who has entered the battlefield on our behalf.
The early disciples conquered the world with the battle cry “Christ is Lord!” Also in Romans 8 (verse 35) we are told that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. The acceptance of our call allows us to bask in His love, to have blessings that only come from being with Him.
Recently in Disney World, we found out there are some unwritten rules that allow you to beat the system. Disney World has what is called Fast Pass, an app based system whereby you can reserve up to three fast passes per person or party on the app, which allows you to go on a much faster line. Our son-in-law Jason became our de facto leader by becoming the master of the Fast Pass. He registered our names on the app, chose the rides and guided us through the maze of enchanted streets and throngs of people. He would come to the Fast Pass lane, scan his ticket, smile, and say to the Disney employee three magic words: “They are with me.” As in on cue, we would appear next to Jason and on to amusement park grand parenting fun.
Ministry and life itself can be hectic, challenging and sometimes disappointing, but “we are with Him.” Let us remember that we have been called, we are being blessed, we are loved, and we are being empowered to accomplish what He is asking us to do.
Miguel Valdivia has worked as church pastor, editor, conference administrator, and currently serves as the Vice Present for Product Development at Pacific Press Publishing Association in Nampa, Idaho