CALLING: a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence
JOB: a regular remunerative position
(Miriam Webster’s Dictionary)
I don’t think I could tell you the difference between a crescent wrench and a tree saw, but for some reason, I have this recurring fantasy that plays in my head:
I want to manage a hardware store.
I don’t want to own it. And I’m not talking a monstrosity like a Lowe’s or a Home Depot. Just a nice family hardware store, decked out with handy tools and old wood floors.
There wouldn’t be that much to manage. Mostly, I’d be the one behind the counter, making duplicate keys for people, and pointing them to aisle 5 where the duct tape is.
And a couple times a month, I’d take my medium-sized paycheck to the bank, and say hi to the woman behind the counter, Jan. We’d smile and wave knowingly–just two hard working folks, doing their jobs.
I think the only credible job I ever held was my first one. At the age of 15 I ran the tractor at my parent’s church in Rochester, Michigan, pushing snow out of the way. It was good, honest work, and I was lousy at it, but I put in my time, and got my paycheck.
After that, I worked at a movie theater (free movies and popcorn), and at a library (nothing ever happened there). Oh, there were a couple other ones, like a 4 month stint at a dysfunctional computer store, but really, I was just coasting by, until…
I found my calling. To be a pastor. Honestly, I had a sense of my calling since I was 5 years old and drew a picture of myself standing behind the pulpit. My parents were both pastors, so really, the language of “call” was more common in my home than the language of “job”.
So once I was old enough, that’s where I went. Into the ministry. A life’s work built around serving the Kingdom of God the best that I could. I went to lots of school (and accumulated lots of debt) and jumped into a complicated system where I didn’t even get to pick where I would serve. Folks higher up in the denomination knew of my gifts, and (hopefully) respected my calling, and put me where I could best serve.
I’ve loved having a calling. It’s meant a life of meaning and purpose, at least most of the time. It’s meant being part of something bigger than myself, and guiding parishioners to discover their calling, too.
Yeah, I learned long ago that you don’t have to be a pastor to respond to a call. Just as God spoke to Samuel out of the Ark of the Covenant, that dark night in the church, God can speak to anyone, and anyone who commits themselves to a life of discipleship is, indeed, answering the call.
And still, some weeks I’d love to give it all up, for something simpler, easier. When church conferences loom and funerals start to stack up, and attendance is dropping despite my best efforts, I hear that siren song:
It’s the sound of chicks, penned up in the back of the store. The sound of the bell over the front door as Jan from the bank comes in. They need a couple keys made next door. Simple. Easy.
Then she asks me what I’m doing Sunday, and invites me to church. And, wouldn’t you know it, I feel that old sense of calling, leading me back to this office, and this desk, and my list of church-y things to do. And I realize I’m right where I need to be.
Not in the church, although I’m happy here, but in God’s hands. That’s a choice of holy, focused living that calls to us whether we’re a pastor, or a hardware store manager, or anything else. Calling is different from a job–you can even have both at the same time.
Have you paid attention to your calling, of late? It is Holy Spirit-given companionship and guidance,
steering you back into God’s Kingdom
in spite of all life’s Highs…
Have a great week,
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