Has God called you into ministry?
… Though that probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.
A few years back, I had the incredible opportunity to spend a week in the Dominican Republic helping build a school for impoverished kids. It was what the youngins these days are calling a “mission’s trip.”
It was an amazing experience. I got to help others, make new friends, and see God’s love in action. We played with the kids between almost every hit of the hammer, visited their homes, prayed for their families. It was evident that our presence (as well as that of the numerous teams that had also poured into the village over time) was making a visible impact. The children entertained us with songs about Jesus, and the families of the town all attended a small church in the house belonging to the very same lady who had bought the land for us to build the school.
It is so important to go out and see with our own eyes how God is moving in the world; to understand the realities that millions of people in the world face that we simply take for granted. To rejoice in how needs are being met in the world, and to grieve for how much suffering there still is, is an important undertaking every follower of Christ needs to regularly experience.
I boarded a plane heading back to the States, feeling as if I was leaving a piece of my heart in the Dominican Republic, and woke up bright and early for school the next morning.
Although it used to feel like clockwork, something was off. Getting up, driving to class, and going about my day just didn’t feel as… Real. Here I was in class, copying down Anthropology notes from some monotone professor’s lecture, it all feeling like a weak and watered-down version of life compared to my previous week. 24 hours earlier I was in an exotic country helping build a school out of mortar and cinder blocks, and blowing up balloons for adorable little kids who lived in stone huts with tin roofs. Kids who got their drinking water from the sewage-filled river that ran by their home, and who owned one pair of clothes and maybe a handmade wooden doll. And that’s it.
Now here I was, waking up in my extra large bed in my room which was bigger than most houses that entire families shared where I was the day before. I desperately wanted to be back there. Back to somewhere where I felt I was making a difference.
My last class that day was Acting, and the professor was having us do some exercises. It culminated in us laying on the ground, breathing in and out slowly, staring up at the ceiling, and yelling gibberish into the air for 15 consecutive minutes. It was somewhere in the middle of those 15 minutes that I frustratingly asked myself, “what am I doing here?” What’s the point of this? I’m laying down on a classroom floor shouting nonsense at the ceiling in the name of “education” when I could be making a difference in the world. This is ridiculous.
That’s when God slapped me across the face.
Not literally, of course. But in that sort of way God loves. That way that puts that twinge in your gut as he whispers something that makes you sorry for what you just said or did, but manages to always end with some sort of “But I love you anyways.” You know what I’m talking about. As I was having these thoughts about the ridiculousness of what I was doing, I just heard him say, “Start Here.”
As if in response to my internal quandaries, He seemed to answer, “you wonder what you are doing here? Well you could be making a difference. Don’t be fooled. You don’t need to be in a third world country.” I gulped. Stopped doing the exercise and sat alone on the carpet with my thoughts, listening to what God had for me. I doubt anyone noticed. But it was true, wasn’t it? God was still speaking. “I did not create you to make a difference sometimes. I didn’t even create you to make a difference most of the time. I created you to make a difference in this world all the time. You were created to live for me and with me, and to bring me glory… Missions is not just traveling somewhere for a week, helping people, then coming back and doing nothing. Missions is not an event you take part in, it’s a way of life.”
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Faces of the people in the Dominican flashed across my mind again. Then, the faces of people I had seen over the course of my day. Much colder and distant. “The people around you here, where you live, need you and my love just as much as anywhere else. Don’t think that just because you’re not in a third world country that it means you’re off the hook. I’ve called you to reach others for me. To love them. To help them. To encourage them. To be my light in a world full of pain and sorrow. I’ve called you to be Jesus to the world. To those around you right here, right now.”
And there it was. God likes to drop truth on us in the most unexpected places. Like on the floor of a college classroom as you’re surrounded by dozens of people shouting made-up words at the cieling.
Of all the many complex questions that generations have argued and debated over, ones which will plague the world until the end of days, a few remain constant:
- Why was I born?
- Why do bad things happen to good people?
- How did this world come to be?
- Why would an all-good-and-perfect God allow evil into the world?
- Why is Taylor Swift so cute?
But the question that we seem to ask ourselves the most, especially us Christians, is what our purpose is (with that last question on the list a close second, of course). But don’t we realize that God’s already given us the answer?
People wait around and twiddle their thumbs, waiting for some sign to answer “what does God want me to do with my life?”
Well guess what? He’s already told you: Love God. Love others. That’s it. Follow it with all your mind, heart, and body. That is God’s will for your life.
He’s given you talents and abilities, and has told you to reach others for his glory. The area where those intersect is where you find your purpose. There’s a lot of freedom there, but that’s the beauty of a creative and loving God loving for us to create our own stories alongside his. So instead of waiting for some sign you know will never come, get up and DO SOMETHING. Start where you are and make a difference.
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
So don’t worry about the entire world right now. You are not meant to reach the whole world. You are meant to reach the people in front of you right now. The friend who’s going through tough times. The clerk behind the counter who might just need someone with a smile. The elderly woman who could use help with her bags in the parking lot. There are many seasons in this life; embrace where you are in this moment.
I pray that God continues to not only give us ears to be receptive to what he is speaking to us everyday, but also the guts to respond.
I pray that he not only gives us the eyes to see what he’s doing, but also the guts to join in.
It’s not really a complex, or a deep-rooted piece of theology. Just do something. Start right where you are.
© Matt Tory, 2013.