I remember the first sermon I ever preached at my parents’ church (well, the church that sponsored me in Seminary). I was preaching on this text from Corinthians, and I spoke to the various ways in which God calls us. One of the beloved, though at times cantankerous, members cornered me afterwards and said “I’m surprised, every other person who has preached this has preached that everyone should to become a minister.”
To which I jokingly replied, “I would not want that, then it would be harder to find a job.”
After a good laugh, I told him how I went through the discernment to follow my call. As I have written, it was over many years and was far more like an amalgamation of various aspect of my life that pointed me in this direction. As a clergy friend told me as I entered the very long process to be ordained, “If there is anything else you think you might want to do, DO IT!!!” This was good advice, but there is the call, I could not avoid that, but at the same time, ministry is not for everyone.
God gives each of us gifts according to his missional needs in this world. This is why this passage is so important. It is also why everyone has to really take the time to discern where and how God is calling them.
Now, as I said before, not everyone is called to ordained ministry, but everyone is called to something. I often find that when I do counseling and I find people that are unhappy in their lives, when we start talking about discernment of call, we often find that they are not in the right position or field. However, if they have the courage to follow their call, interesting things happen.
This is true of Mary, a woman I once knew. Mary was working for a tech company and, well, hating every day of if. Being in her mid-thirties and finally having paid off her student loans, Mary felt stuck, depressed, and lost. She spoke of her life as if it were a really boring book, often in the third person. One time I had her sit down and list out everything she liked on one side of the page, and everything that she considered to be important to living a whole life on the other side of the page. Well, you probably guessed it by now, nowhere on the page was there tech anything. In fact, her love of animals was plastered throughout the document. In talking, she spoke about how she loved to care for animals and had a heart for those who were abused or hurting.
It was a hard choice for her, but she ended up going back to school and becoming a veterinarian. As she discerned her call, she recognized the signs that were there her whole life, but ignored, and that the practicality and money of the 90’s tech industry had taken precedence over what she know would give her joy and would ultimately help her to minister to others. She had a vital ministry sharing compassion and strength for people. Mary also felt more complete, even though she went from being very financially comfortable to wondering at times where she would find the money to pay bills.
While the call may be various, as Mary understood in her role as a vet, as I understand as a pastor, and as others recognize, when we listen to the ways in which God calls us we begin to see ourselves as more complete, and we know the difference that we make in this world.
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Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen