Callings – We’re Not Built for the Ground.
Pamela Paul, now senior editor for the NY Times Book Review, remembers that first job interview near the end of her senior year at Brown University. “I was mid job interview with Quaker Oats, explaining why I wanted to work there (It had something to do with Crunch Berries). Suddenly, I saw myself from a distance. Is this what I’d gone to four years of college for? What happened to my dreams of writing, of public service? I ended up interrupting myself by saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve made a mistake – I actually don’t want to work here.’ ” Then I walked out. At that moment, I knew I needed to do something completely different…”
It’s time to stop talking about callings from God – time to stop talking about it, chewing on it, meditating and reflecting on it, dancing around it, reading about it. It’s time to get after it, time to take all this stuff out on the road and live and drive it. Maybe God is calling you to make Crunch Berries. Maybe, as Pam said, it’s something completely different. The greatness of God’s call on our lives isn’t the greatness of the task but the greatness of the God who calls us no matter the task. You know the classic adage, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a Slurpee from 7-11.” Okay, maybe it doesn’t say that but let’s start to start!
Let the Holy Spirit do some heart sifting here. Remember Pam asking where her dreams went? Our dreams are where our heart goes to play whenever our mind runs free-range. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Some dreams are merely fantasies; others begin to take hold and we build ladders and draw maps we think might get us there. We make plans. We order catalogs and check out grad school websites. We draw up “what if” budgets. We collect estimates for truck or trailer rentals or moving services. We willingly endure the stress of change. None of us has a problem with change as long as it never touches anything we care about – and it always does. Technologically, I couldn’t win a game of Jeopardy against a gerbil and a cabbage. Every time I figure out the latest new Facebook twist, someone “improves” it by changing it up. We endure the disruption, inconvenience and stress of change toward the things we dream about and plan for. Finally, there’s sacrifice. We give up or relinquish something (possessions, lesser or competing dreams and goals, time and money) that we would otherwise have kept or invested in ourselves. It’s tragic that these four things can converge not only on things not having anything to do with God’s Kingdom but on things trivial and insignificant. Where these four tangents intersect, that’s God in our lives regardless of what we say we believe, what our doctrinal statement might say. Pursuing the call of God starts here.
Tis the season for bad commencement speakers. I just saw one who’s anything but. During his college days, a lot of people in Christian circles thought him a rebel who didn’t measure up to their idea of a leader, etc. And some didn’t keep quiet. When they piled on, I wrote him an encouraging note…something like “Stay funky in Jesus” or “Keep the starch out of your spiritual shorts”. Upon graduation, he went to California to get into film, script writing and screenplays in particular. We lost touch. He spent years scraping away at it. Others trying to do the same packed up and went back home. He put in long hours, did a lot of menial hard work inside the industry. One thing led to another and today he’s a serious producer/writer/insider for the Kingdom who did the commencement deal at his alma mater and received an honorary doctorate. Holding up the doctorate, that glint in the eye that made more than a couple of church leaders squirm is still there.
Where to start? Go back to the first post in this series and read through them again with pen and paper handy. The Spirit of God will flag where to start. Steve Jobs, the young maverick just getting off the ground at Apple, stood at an impasse. Steve had vision coming out his ears but didn’t know how to build the structure that would make it fly to the next level. He started to talk with John Sculley, head of Pepsico. After a few conversations, Jobs said,” Look, you’re the only guy I respect and admire. Why don’t you come out and lead Apple. Sculley didn’t want to – he liked where he was at Pepsi. He thought he was set until retirement and like the whole New York lifestyle. Jobs kept pushing; Sculley kept dodging. “How much money will it take to pry you out of Pepsi?’ Sculley threw out an outrageous figure thinking it would be the ultimate deterrent. Jobs swallowed hard and said, “Okay, I’ll pay you even if I have to take it out of my own pocket.” Sculley still tap danced trying to come up with another dodge when Steve Jobs cut him off in frustration: “Look, do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?” John Sculley says he stood completely unprepared for a question like that. It began to burn inside him until he left Pepsico for Apple. A question like that doesn’t just evaporate from the heart especially when Jesus Christ puts it there.
Peter got it. Jesus’ words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood freaked out everybody in John 6. They left in droves and while their tail lights disappeared in the distance, Jesus spun on them and said “Are you leaving too?” “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?” (John 6:68) This is the stuff callings are made of. Borrowing from Barbara Brown Taylor, Peter had “glimpsed God and if trusting that means struggling with a whole lot of disgusting things that go with it, then Peter will consent to struggle. He will not give up the truth he has found even if it comes tucked in a box full of spiders. He will not go away from the life he has been led to, even if it is miles from the life he thought he wanted.” Calling – it’s time for us to get it.
In the movie “Space Cowboys”, Tommy Lee Jones’ character revisits the stealth fighters he used to fly and reminisces, ” Ugly on the ground and leaks like a sieve…sitting on the ground is a lousy way to die… but get her up to Mach 1 and 120,000 ft..” We may all be ugly on the ground and leak like a sieve…but we weren’t built for the ground, space and time. We were fashioned by the Hand of God to redeem as much of this wounded ground as we can, dragging it beyond space and time while we live until Jesus Christ Himself comes to knead His glory into every thimble full of cosmos right down to the last strawberry. (God already has that strawberry thing down.)
A couple good guides to help along the way include “Finding Calcutta” by Mary Poplin and “Kingdom Calling” by Amy Sherman both on IVP and available from Byron Borger here at 20% off if you say you saw it here. If you think this might help college students or someone who loves them, them subscribe, share, tweet and all that social media stuff. Or you can check out a Facebook group called Geezer 1 and ask to join. All newcomers have to buy pizza for the rest of the gang.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.