God Never Has the Wrong Number
I was sixteen years old when I was SURE I’d heard God “call” me to ministry. It seemed to be a clear message, as clear as a teenager can hear without a fully-formed brain. I just KNEW that God was telling me that I was going to be working in a church the rest of my life. In fact, that message became my whole identity, and I wasn’t accepting anything different.
Fast-forward to meeting and falling in love with my husband, who also had a call to vocational ministry. He was in seminary as well, pursuing a church music degree, and his goal was to be a worship pastor. After we got engaged, I had what I thought was just normal anxieties about marriage. Then, I realized that if he worked at a church, there was a pretty good chance whoever hired him wouldn’t have a need for me as well. Insert existential crisis here.
The time came when a church decided to hire Jason as a full-time worship pastor. I was elated for his opportunity, but after we moved two states over I began to fall into a deep depression. I was taken away from all my ministry “comfort zones” and thrusted into a church where I felt like the last kid being picked for a team. Everyone had their own roles, and it seemed there was no need for my “calling.” I started to feel as if God had called the wrong number when I was sixteen. Little did I know that this state of depression and doubt would be the most formative season of my spiritual life.
I was completely reliant on God for the first time in my whole life. I didn’t have a job for six months. I talked to him morning, evening, and night. Instead of merely communicating with him like it was my job, I started to include him in every thought and motivation I had. I started to have hard conversations with him. I yelled at him, cussed at him, and cried to him about why the message I heard so clearly was suddenly so muddled. Through those six months, He taught me three lessons that are now fundamental in my faith and journey in ministry.
1. His “call” is correct. Even if I didn’t hear it in the way he intended, God still called me to ministry. He never said my spouse and I both had to work at a church. He never said we had to be in the same line of work at all. However, we both needed to have the same goal.
Hebrews 3:1 “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”
If we both fixed our thoughts on the one who gave us the call and commission to share the gospel, we would succeed. In our circumstance, Jason works at a church and I don’t. However, we are both “in” ministry. I just don’t do it the same way he does. I support him in his ministry, I teach our women’s small group, and I focus my calling on ministry in the secular world.
2. Grow where you’re planted. I know, I know. This is a cliché, but bear with me. I HATED Birmingham. And I was determined to never ever like it. I told God all about my rebellion on my three dog walks every day (I didn’t have a job, remember?). Those walks became a lifeline as I didn’t have a trusting relationship with anyone else in the area. One of those walks was life-changing. God CLEARLY said to me (Again, cliché. But get over it), “You can either be miserable and apathetic, or you can be useful for the kingdom. Your choice.” I’ve planted roots where I am now, and it’s my job to keep them fed and watered. I now channel my energy into hobbies and other outlets.
a. Coffee: If I was going to meet people outside of church, I was going to have to make an effort. So, I’ve become a regular at one coffee shop, where I’ve met so many people in the community. Some of my favorite people in the city are right behind the espresso machine.
b. Writing: I found a writing group that has encouraged me, kept me accountable, and walked with me in my passion for sharing the gospel through the written word.
c. Cycling: Through cycling, I’ve cultivated a regular practice of gratitude. During my rides, I recognize God’s creation and meditate on His goodness. And I’m being a good steward of the temple God has granted me.
3. Ministry is everywhere because Jesus is everywhere. I may not have a job at a church, but I’ve had more gospel conversations in the past three years through my work and hobbies than I’ve had inside a church my whole life. The word διάκονος in Greek scripture means “servant or minister”. That’s who Jesus was. He was a servant on the seaside, on hillsides, in Samaria, and in the synagogue. If Jesus didn’t limit who he was to inside of the church, then why should we? Vocational ministry is needed. We need professional pastors and ministers to shepherd the flock. But it’s not the only avenue.
I’m so glad that I answered the call. It’s taken years to fully understand ministry the way I do now. But, through perseverance, reconsiderations, and fervent prayer I’ve realized that while I may not fully understand Him, God never has the wrong number.