Fulfilling God’s Calling on My Life (John 15:16)
Perhaps it’s because I am sliding through the decade of my sixties that I feel so introspective. For several months lately I have wondered, did I miss God’s call on my life?
At the age of 16, when most girls think about prom dresses and gangly boys with pimples, God spoke to me through John 15:16, “You have not chosen me. I have chosen you and ordained you to go and bear fruit.”
As a teenager, God’s call could mean only one thing – I thought I must become a missionary or an ordained minister, sacrifice my passions and end up as a martyr on a stake in the jungle.
Although rather macabre, the idea also seemed a bit romantic to me. Legalism mixed with biographies I read about Christian martyrs filled my thoughts. Plus, I was overly dramatic because well – I was 16.
When I finished high school, I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education because the only “safe” choices for women at that time were teaching and nursing. I hated blood, so that made the choice easy. I tried to enroll in seminary, but I was denied. Women in my denomination were not allowed to pursue a master’s of divinity – which was my ultimate goal as I sought to inspire others and preach the Gospel. I was destined, it seemed, for the classroom. Teaching seemed at least possible and surely I could find my calling in such a noble profession. So I signed up for a short-term assignment on the mission field, then came back to the States and taught in public schools.
Stuck in a classroom as a math teacher was not my idea of a God-ordained call, especially because I hated math and felt totally ineffective. But I do remember one breakthrough as one of my fifth graders finally remembered 7 x 7 because I told him the answer was a football team!
As I taught, I still searched for that perfect position where I could fulfill God’s call on my life. I remembered my dreams of adventure and martyrdom and wondered how I could get back to that ideal. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I saw later that God’s call doesn’t necessarily mean a particular type of job. He wants us to be available daily, to answer divine appointments that appear and tell his story to a love-starved world. So even as I taught math, I was sharing the Gospel, even though I didn’t feel like a “missionary”.
All this time, I bled my soul out into my journal and wrote articles for magazines. I served on committees at church and hoped I was bearing fruit for God. But something still didn’t feel right. That passion for the pulpit never disappeared.
I longed to find contentment in my John 15:16 calling and promise.
I volunteered at a pregnancy crisis center where the board of directors sent me to be trained as a Biblical counselor. As I listened to the stories of pregnant teens and helped older women through the trauma of post-abortion syndrome, I saw the ministry that happened each day. The original call looked a bit different than I thought, and I continued to grow as a minister of the gospel, both in writing and in personal interactions.
I wondered if Jesus found joy as he pounded nails and sanded boards – or did he long to run out of the carpentry shop and go heal somebody? Did he feel contentment in the call to love God and his neighbors every day within the confines of “ordinary” work? How did he balance the reality of paying bills with his passion for people?
I began to understand that ministry isn’t necessarily initials behind my name or impressive titles that look good on a book jacket.
Ministry is just serving people, caring for others and walking beside them through whatever crises life throws at them.
By the time my AARP card arrived, I was trained to serve my church as a lay minister and helped care receivers find hope in the middle of their crises. Then as a certified Christian life coach, I helped women set goals to reach the dreams God had placed in their hearts. Meanwhile, my publishing credits grew, and I graduated from writing articles to books. Through my writing, I encouraged young women to listen closely for divine appointments, address their passions and fight for what they believed God wanted them to do. Without my experience in less-than-perfect professions and difficult seasons, I could not have offered that same advice.
God’s call for me had indeed been answered through the years of service, within the pulpits of nonprofits and the written word. God himself had credentialed me, “ordained” me in a different way than I expected, so that I could bear fruit every day. It seems my pulpit was always destined to be in the nonprofits where I served and through the words I wrote.
No MDiv hangs on my office wall, and my life turned out much differently than I thought at age 16. But I know that God’s promise is still true, and it’s still good. He has chosen me and given me a unique calling.
John 15:16, “You have not chosen me. I have chosen you and ordained you to go and bear fruit.”
Read an earlier post by RJ here.
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