Refining Season

Seek First | Be Refined

I have had many conversations over the past few months with respected leaders, mentors, elders, and friends. I’ve listened to sermons, read books, read Scripture, and sought wisdom and direction through prayer. While I have not heard or read the same answer to my questions from any two sources, I have been noticing a common thread through them all.

If you have no clue what I am talking about, let me clarify some for you. I have felt God calling me to something more vocationally than where I am right now. I should probably say “different” rather than “more” because I am doing Kingdom work where I am right now. I just have a Holy Discontent, to coin a term a friend of mine used. I don’t mind the work that I am doing. I don’t hate it. I have skills and talents in the church production world that others don’t pretend to understand. But I do not have the sense of fulfillment in my current role. There is a pull to something greater.

I’ve written about this nudge/calling more than a few times in the past. It’s nothing new to my life. My first blog post on the subject of calling and direction was in 2009, and I am still navigating and discerning five years later. I mentioned earlier that I have noticed a common thread over the past few months, so lets see if you notice it too.

Calling is Where Passion, Talent and Affirmation Meet.

These words have been burned into my mind ever since I heard them from my mentor. I have talent and have been affirmed in the the church production world. I have a passion for serving others and caring for them. I have talents in a wide range of skills from music and writing to web design and stage set design. I have been affirmed in the areas of shepherding and teaching in the past as well. I am passionate about building The Church, making disciple makers and developing strong leaders to further the Kingdom of God.

What does all that mean? Those passions, talents and affirmations can intersect in a number of very different vocations. I love to cook too, does that mean I should go open a restaurant? I feel a calling to pursue pastoral ministry, but I have run into so many hurdles every time I’ve tried to move that direction? Does this mean I misheard? I don’t think I should open a restaurant, nor do I feel that I’ve misheard God.

Ministry Should Happen in Every Vocation.

I cannot argue with that. I know that I am doing ministry in my current role through my job description as well as what I do beyond what my role requires. Working at a church does not mean that I am exempt from feeling like I am not doing “real” ministry at times though. I have had moments when I’ve asked myself how anything I was working on really made a difference in the Kingdom of God. How does adding haze to the air and creating cool lighting looks bring anyone into the presence of God?

Those lies creep into my heart just like the would for the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The CEO may never admit, but I’m sure they’ve all had doubts at some point in their lives about whether or not they are really making a difference in the world. I don’t know if those lies contribute to my lack of passion for my current role. The question remains, where can God use me the most? If it is where I am, so be it. If it is where I feel He is calling me, I need to pursue that.

Seek First The Kingdom of God.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:25-34 ESV (emphasis mine)

One of the elders at my church, who I would also consider a friend, spoke that truth to me last month. The Lord had placed that verse on his heart early one morning so that he point my focus to it later that same morning. I have been seeking my calling more than the Kingdom of God for the past five years, maybe longer.

When I read that passage of Scripture, I am reminded of a hymn written by Helen H. Lemmel as well as other Scriptures (see Hebrews 12:1-2 and 2 Peter 3:11-13).

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

I Need to Go Through a Season of Refining.

After recently being turned down for a pastoral role in my church, I was encouraged to meet with some of the elders so that they can help me discern my calling and speak truth and grace into my life. After my first meeting with one of them, I came away with encouragement and a challenge.

This elder confirmed that he sees a higher calling on my life, but he also sensed from God that I still need to go through a season of refining. While I don’t disagree with him, that was hard to hear. I don’t want to ever feel like God has finished His refining work in me, but I was hoping to only hear the words of confirmation in that moment. It’s incredible how much this season of refining that he sees for me compliments my need to seek God first.

Now What?

Here is what I think I know:

  • My passions and talents are still developing.
  • Affirmations will come in God’s timing.
  • I am hearing correctly about my calling.
  • Kingdom work in my current role and wherever I am along the journey needs to be a priority behind seeking God first.
  • I need to be open and willing to accept God’s refining work in me.

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