The idea of “a calling” has been turning up again in my life; or should I say the question of having one.
A few months back, I was interviewing with a Church for the position of youth minister. The interviews, meetings, conversations, and teaching went well. The students, though few in number, were a great bunch of kids. We left after a Sunday visit, ready to accept the position and begin a second ministry. I had planned to accept the job the next week via phone call when I ended working every night and eventually ended up in the hospital for a couple days with 5 different diagnosis’s.
While in the hospital, I received an e-mail from a few of the elders of the church and the sr. pastor. In the email, they asked the fair question: “Do you really feel called to do located Church ministry?” They did add onto the question their observation that I didn’t sound excited about working with their students and that I sounded like I loved what I was doing with the rodeo kids and the school. I guess my stories about working with the students I work with made it sound to glamorous. My calling was in question.
Three years ago in June I had a meeting with my current boss, Sr. Pastor Tim. I had left my intern in charge of Wed. night youth group. One of the Moms of a student called Pastor Tim, furious that I would take off a night of youth group to go to a rodeo. She was upset that her daughter wasn’t with us as well. All of this information she gleaned from a photo my wife had put on facebook. I awoke Thursday morning to a furious text message from my boss. He was studying at Panera and wanted to meet with me. I drove to Panera Bread, home of the $12 p b and j sandwich, and met with him that morning. His accusation, based upon the information provided by his daughter and previously mentioned upset parent, was that I “was using youth ministry as a paycheck to support rodeo!” Translation: I was doing youth ministry for the money. Honestly, that is where my career probably ended at the Church. My calling was in question.
The biblical notion of calling is pretty straight-forward. A man is spoken to by God to complete a task.
- Abram – “Go to the land I will show you…” (Gen. 12)
- Moses – “Go confront Pharoah and lead my people out of Egypt” (Exodus 3-4)
- Gideon – “Go and we will beat up the Midianites together” (Judges 6)
- Samuel – “I am gonna do something you are gonna want to see…” (1 Samuel 3)
- Jeremiah – “I appointed you as a prophet the nations…” (Jeremiah 1)
- Ezekiel – “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites…” (Ezekiel 2)
- Isaiah – “Go and tell this people…” (Isaiah 6)
- Amos – “Go prophesy to my people Israel…” (Amos 7)
- Jonah – “Go to the great city of Nineveh…” (Jonah 1)
These men were called to do a specific task, for God, to his people. I want so desperately to be one of them. But I am not.
Daniel is a story about a man in the Old Testament. In the English Bible he is considered a major prophet (alongside Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah), but in the Jewish Old Testament, he is considered on of the writings. The Jewish Old Testament can be broken down into three sections. The acronym TaNaK can be used to remember the sections of the Hebrew scriptures. The “T” stands for the Torah, meaning the law of God, the Torah. The “N” stands for the “nevi’im” which translates to “the prophets” (“nevi’im” is Hebrew for “the prophets”). The “K” stands for “the Kethubim” which translates into English as “the writings”. In the English New Testament, the book of Daniel is allocated as a Major Prophet, but in the Hebrew, Daniel is considered one of the “writings”. Daniel is put with the “writings” or the Kethubim, in the Hebrew Old Testament.
The question is raised as to “why?”. Why would the Hebrew’s put the book of Daniel in the Writings section and us English people put it into the Major Prophets?
I think the answer lies in the lack of “call narrative.” Simply put, most other Prophets have a call narrative, where as, Daniel does not. Daniel is a young man, deported to Babylon alongside the rest of his successful countrymen, who wakes up in 598 B.C. wondering, “what the heck happened?” Babylon, under Nebuchadnezzar, adopted the foreign policy of dilution. Their thought “If I take away the best of the population, the rest will become so inept that we as a nation won’t have to worry about them.” So Nebuchadnezzar took the best and the brightest of men back to Babylon with him, and that included Daniel. Intent on breaking down and re-booting the young men, Nebuchadnezzar tried to take their identity. In the first chapter he loses his name (Dan. 1.7), his language and literature of home (Dan 1.4), and gets thrown into the palace. If anyone had reason to sit around and question “what to do?”, it was Daniel.
Daniel “resolved” (1.8), literally he “set it on his heart” to be pure. It is the same phrase that God asks Satan in the first chapter of Job: “Why have you set your heart on Job?” (Job 1.8; 2.3) Daniel was going to live out God’s purposes and follow God despite the circumstances he was placed in. It shows in the way he lived and served in Babylon. He became known for his wisdom and entertained Kings (Dan. 5) and everyone knew his devotion to God. The men didn’t just stumble upon Daniel praying, they knew where to find him (Dan 6.10ff.)
So what is there to make of this? As a man who’s calling has been brought into question, by himself most of all, is there no hope until God speaks audible from a bush or a burrito? Maybe “a calling” isn’t necessarily a voiced task by God (it was for the aforementioned men), but could be a response on our part to the situation we find ourselves in. Like Daniel who knew it was his purpose to serve God wherever he found himself, it is our task to serve our Lord in whatever role presents itself. With grease paint and baggies, in the pulpit, with a guitar in hand, fixing bikes at School, crunching numbers at work, doctoring cows, or playing with our kids…a calling to be followed. Not a “to-do-list” but a “following”.