So far in this series on calling we have explored two questions.
The first question is, “where do we start?” We discovered that the starting point for our callings is grounded in Christ’s work throughout history to reconcile all things to himself – to renew the world.
The second question is, “where do we go?” The answer is that we go to join Christ in his work. That we go to bring health and healing to a broken world in every relationship we have and in every corner of the world.
In short, we work to bring about flourishing. Now we turn our attention to the last question: “What lies ahead?”
Knowing what lies ahead is crucial to every undertaking. In the days of wooden sailing ships, men often spent time in the crow’s nest while the crew below waited in hopes of hearing: “Land ho!” Marines send out Recon Teams, aircraft use radar, ships use sonar, parents talk to friends with older children, children talk to older friends, and businesses use predictive analytics. Everyone wants to know what lies ahead.
For Christians, knowing what lies ahead involves looking back into the pages of Scripture, as well as the lives of those who went before us.
Let’s take a look at the different callings surrounding a brief moment in history: the birth of Christ.
As we step into the narrative, we meet a number of people, but let’s focus on seven – Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist), Mary and Joseph (Jesus’s parents), Simeon (a prophet), the shepherds, the wise men, and, of course, Jesus. For each of them, calling was a two-sided coin. On the one side was joy and on the other side was suffering.
Our callings are amazing! They are full of beauty and adventure. Zechariah was called to father a child, Mary to give birth, Joseph to be married, shepherds to proclaim, and wise men to worship. Then, there is Jesus, the Creator God and King, called to be a Savior to his people. Each was called to something wonderful and powerful – some for a lifetime and some for a season – but like you and me, each was called.
Without question, our callings are wonderful and powerful, but there is another side to the coin. Calling always comes with the struggle of our humanity. Zechariah doubted his calling in light of his age. Joseph was on the brink of divorce until the Lord intervened. Simeon waited a lifetime for the pinnacle of his calling. Then again, there is Jesus, the Creator God and King, born on the dirt floor of a barn and destined for the pain of the cross. Calling is central to life but does not always come with ease and may at times lack clarity.
The joy that comes with calling is real; it is a gift. To think of my calling as being characterized by joy brings great hope and excitement. And yet calling is never characterized by joy alone. We live in a world that was created in beauty and shattered by brokenness. In the same way, our callings mirror the duality of our world – beauty and brokenness / joy and suffering.
You might wonder how I can say (with great confidence) that both joy and suffering lie ahead for all of us. It is simple; I am convinced because of the value that each of these brings into our lives. The better question is not how I know, but why God would choose to use each.
In the second and third parts of this blog, we will tackle the questions of “why joy?” and “why suffering?”
©Mark Dawson 2016