The thick fog that we drove through on the way to the cabin slowed us down enough to discuss what our expectations were for the weekend. Being on similar yet completely different walks in this journey of life, our expectations were all unique. One thing is certain though – we were all expecting big things.
I have not hidden the fact that I have been searching for answers from God regarding my calling. When I was in middle school, I went on a retreat where one of the other students received a call to go into ministry. I wanted so badly to experience what he did. My sister was a missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) at the time, and so naturally this great desire in me to “hear a call” turned into an idea that I was being called to be a missionary. I’m not saying that I faked the calling of God on my life at that point, but I didn’t really understand what I was saying when I told my leader that I felt called to become a missionary.
Over the course of my high school years, I went on every mission trip and retreat that I could. I volunteered with the middle school ministry and learned to play guitar so that I could become a worship leader. I got baptized in a pool and began to own my faith. I had huge wins in my life and major failures, but God still had a plan for me. The memory of what I said on that retreat began to fade, but I would be reminded by that old leader whenever he saw me. He had moved on in his career and I only saw him once every few years, but every time he saw me, he would say “I haven’t forgotten that call to ministry.”
Nearly eighteen years later, I’ve thought my calling would be anything from a music career to student ministry, but I still don’t know for sure. My goal for the weekend away was to seek clarity from God. I wanted Him to reveal the plans he has for me.
I’ve been a part of the emerging leaders group at my church since it started. Emerging leaders is basically a learning track for younger employees to become leaders in the church. Being a part of this group has been almost frustrating to me at times because of past instances when I had felt overlooked. I always looked forward to our meeting though because I knew I would have much to gain from them. I can truly say that I am a much better leader now than I could have attempted to be just a few years ago.
Over the past few years, I have had this desire to be in a pastoral role of some sort. I would even go as far as to say I felt like God was calling me to become a pastor at times. I thought an open door to become the high school director was for me. That door closed. I thought I could fill the role of worship leader for two of the campuses that opened, but my role did not change. I even thought that an expanded role at a campus that included what I do at our Wexford campus might open the door to move towards becoming a pastor. That expanded role was never created, but instead filled by three part-time employees.
With every dead-bolt locking before I could even get my hand on the doorknob, I felt like I misunderstood God. Maybe the idea of becoming a pastor was nothing more than a thought. Maybe I was thinking about it so hard that I just wanted it to be God’s call on my life. So this was my prayer.
God, please help me. Help me to understand if this is a desire that you placed on my heart or just an idea on my mind. If this desire is from You and not me, please make it clear to me.
I did not share with the other guys what I wanted clarity about. I just told them that I wasn’t sure whether my desires were put in my heart by God or thought up in my mind as an encouraged lie from the enemy. I told them that I was asking God for clarity and seeking Him with the expectation that He would lift the fog.
We went through the weekend with prayer, worship, hiking through God’s creation, fasting, and resting. While we were praying around the fire on Saturday evening, one of the guys began to recount the day. He mentioned how I had been their guide through territories where they had never been. He talked about how I cared for them throughout the weekend and tended to their needs. He thanked God for my servant’s heart. I have to say that I was almost uncomfortable by that point. Even writing these things now, I feel as though I am boasting. It is difficult to talk about your own humility in a humble way, but those are the things he was saying as he prayed.
As DJ recounted those things, the image of a shepherd came to my mind. A shepherd guides his flock to green pastures. A shepherd tends to the needs of each and every sheep. A shepherd cares for his flock and protects them from danger. A shepherd is a leader. If you think about the role of a pastor, the image of a shepherd can help in defining his responsibilities. That image was the clarity I was looking for that weekend.
I still don’t know how this calling on my life will play out. I don’t know what my next steps are or what my pastoral role will look like. I do have a general direction to move towards though. I am surrounded by great leaders who can help me navigate my next steps and develop a path to follow. Even though I feel like God gave me clarity, I still feel like Gideon with his fleece. I want God to give me confirmation.
Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.
Judges 6:36-40 ESV
I have recently received confirmation from God about other areas of my life, so you might think that it should be easy for me to trust Him in this. Instead I want to be sure and receive more signs from Him to know that I am hearing Him correctly.
LORD, please don’t be upset with me. If it’s not too much trouble, would you mind making the fleece dry this time and the ground wet?