Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Highest and Best Calling

Arlene Hewitt sat in her office one particularly reflective, dreary afternoon and said, “So I often wonder, is this the highest and best calling for this time in my life?” We had been discussing our work and our institutional frustration, irritation with bureaucracy and just the vocational angst that often accompanies those in ministry. If she had taken out a sock, put a brick in it and hit me in the head it would have been no less jarring. That was an incredible question. The question is far deeper than it initially seems.

First, is what I am doing my highest and best calling? Is it the most God-honoring thing I can be doing (highest) and is it the most effective use of my time (best)? What would the highest calling look like? Would it be constantly certain that I was in the presence of God in all that I do?

My highest calling, it would seem, would be actions that lead to eternal results. I mean, my job is to engage youth and young adults in matters related to their spiritual formation facilitate significant faith decisions and put them on the road to being fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. That seems pretty significant, even if I rarely get to actually see the fruits of my labor. I have stacks of commitment cards from last summer indicating that serious decisions were made, yet the question remains, is this the highest calling for my life? Is this the vocation that resonates with my heart song?

Next, is it my best calling? Am I doing what I can do most effectively to yield eternal results? Does ordering two-thousand Hawaiian leis count as a spiritual venture? Am I playing to my strengths and fully engaging my spiritual gifts? A lot of what I do does seem counter-intuitive to my gifts. I spend a lot of time in meetings and doing administrative tasks which are certainly not life-giving for me. Additionally, I spend precious little time communicating and teaching. Being one whose primary joy of the local church was the time I spent leading Bible study or preaching each week, it seems that I don’t often get to do what I used to love to do. Actually, I have even begun to doubt my abilities in these areas, partially from being out of practice I am certain, and also due to simple exhaustion. Is this my best calling?

The other part of the question is just as impactful as the first. When she said “for this time in my life,” it called into account our mortality. How often do I live my life certain of tomorrow? I’m not being morbid but I do have to realize that at 42 I am more than half done with the active, functional time of my life. Let’s say I make it to mandatory retirement for the United Methodist Church, 72. I essentially have only thirty years to make whatever mark upon this world I will make. When you are sixteen, thirty years seems like a lifetime. When you are 42 it looks significantly shorter.

There are books to read and, maybe, books to write. There are sunrises to see break through the dark of night and reflect upon God’s continual testimony of hope. There is laughter to share and tears to shed. So, is this the highest and best calling for my life right now? I honestly don’t know. I do know that it is what I am called to do at this moment and I will continue to honor that calling until God shed light upon the next path I am to travel because I continue to struggle and remain:

Consumed by the Call,

Marty

Gracious God, lead me in Your highest and best calling for my life for this time in my life, in the name of the One who lived that out with every breath, Jesus, I pray. Amen

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