Calling (Part 1)
How does one “find his calling?” How do you know and then live in the way that you were designed? Why do that anyway? These questions have haunted me for several years as I battled with my own sense of direction and purpose and have led me to this point, not so much “knowing” every detail of my destiny, but truly loving the journey as much (if not more) than the destination. How did I get here? Let me tell you my story.
I started like most young men do, full of dreams and aspirations for greatness. I was 8 years old, and the dream of playing with Jerry Rice was very real to me then with the other kids on my block. Of course as we played in our neighbor’s back yard (a great 50 yard field of grass, which felt like a 100 yard field for 8 year olds) I realized that my dream of playing with the 49ers might not actually happen as I dropped the ball time and time again. “Butterfingers”, I am pretty sure that is the name they referred to me as.
After I came to the harsh reality that professional football may not be in my future, my next dream was even greater in scope. At my home, at dinner time- we talked. But it was more than casual dinner conversation, it was often heated. Not in the kind of angry way that some families speak to each other, it was debate. My dad loved to engage in conversation and while none of us may have understood what was happening entirely, I was often being sharpened in mind to articulate words and discussions from a very young age. Most often we debated religion and politics; aren’t those the two subjects you’re not supposed to bring up at dinner? Well we did and my dad had a penchant for challenging me in whatever I said thus testing my arguments, thoughts and beliefs on a regular basis. And I loved it. This led me to believe that I may enjoy a life of politics, and maybe I could even become the president of United States one day. Really? Yes, really. I wanted to be the president of the United States. It’s ridiculous I know; but it is part of my past.
After I realized my distain for politicians (not politics mind you) and my love for God, I realized that my destiny was wrapped in the calling of God. This is going to sound crazy to anyone but me, but God spoke to me. He really did. I was 15 and up at a winter camp with my church, it was called Forest Home. It was one of the only years that it snowed in my 4 years of going to camps there. I remember we had so much fun throwing snowballs at each other and learning about God through the bible, worship, and workshops. Those days hold some of the best memories for me. I can remember friends I got then that I thought I would have forever.
Of course I wrestled with the question of “Does God Exist” and “What am I Here for”, “why did you make me”. These are the questions that I can remember wrestling with as a young man. Of course I am only listing the important questions, or at least the questions that I realize in hindsight are important. On top of the life altering, destiny setting questions I was asking, I was also petitioning the throne room of God with boldness and passion for the chance to kiss a girl I liked at camp and for my parents to not be mad at me for “cleaning” my room by sweeping it under the bed. After many hours of asking these questions and more, I felt led outside on one cold night, before the worship had concluded. I walked up the side of a small hill, away from the crowds, and there God spoke to me. I found a snow man and as I stared at it I asked God to ‘prove’ himself to me (a dangerous question to ask to a being that doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone). Then God spoke to me; and this is how- without laying myself down, I found myself on my back, in the cold snow staring at the sky. I marveled at the stars and how bright they seemed glimmering down at me. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the snowman; he seemed to stare straight ahead, off into the distance, listless and without life. Inside my beating heart I felt as if the Lord said to me, “the whole world is fascinated by snowmen, their own wonderful creations, when I want you to be fascinated with me, the one who set the stars in the heavens.”
Without reference to time I got up, stared at the snowman one more time, then looked upward and headed back to the service. That evening I knew God had spoken to me and there was a reality that I experienced in that moment that nothing to this point has replaced. By the end of that evening I knew that God was calling me to youth ministry. After telling a friend of mine, he loudly exclaimed, “Have fun in cemetery!” They all laughed as we joked about how boring seminary would be. I didn’t care, I just knew I was supposed to do it, and I didn’t care who knew or what it would cost me.