Last week, my bishop told a story to our group amidst the election of a new Presiding Bishop. I don't remember who exactly said what in the story, but the point was that the Holy Spirit doesn't pluck out one person who is right for the job and hand them to the person/group doing the hiring. Instead the Holy Spirit sometimes says "you've got a bunch of great people. Pick one and I'll make them right for the job." I've been pondering the implications of that story for a while, and I think it's quite possibly one of the wisest things I've ever heard. These words have come back to me almost daily since I've heard them, and today they did again.
We are currently packing up to head out on internship. I feel like we're drowning in cardboard boxes. We roll out of the driveway Monday morning, and the next Sunday I officially start my internship. It is a really exciting time for me and my family. But it's also an absolutely terrifying time. My wife looked at me this evening and asked, "are you ready for this?" The answer that immediately popped out of my mouth was an emphatic "NO!" only to be followed up by my own even bigger mental NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! It was in that moment when the words of my bishop came back to me.
I have come to realize that there is a huge difference between a job and a call. The modern day professionalization of the clergy would seek to equate the two, but they are vastly different. When one accepts a job, the premise is usually that they're well prepared, well educated, and adequately skilled. They are often viewed as a missing cog in the machine of the company. But that is not how a call works. Don't get me wrong, think those going into a call have usually been well prepared, well educated and are adequately skilled. But a call is something more organic. A call is about shepherding and loving, and about growing together. It's all about companionship and walking with a group of people through the ups and downs of life. A job often forces you to look at past performance, benchmarks, and productivity levels. There is a sort of cold statistical analysis that can be done. The central question is always, "Have I performed and am I currently performing at a level to warrant my employment." However with a call, it is all about the future. Am I the right person to walk into the future together with these people? Is this place the one where God needs me to be in the coming years?
Now, don't get me wrong, these divisions are not so neat and tidy. And I also realize that a call may not be part of a church, but can be any vocation.
I have thought a lot about this, because I know I'm called. I'm called to head out on this internship to a place and a people I don't know. I'm called to try and fail and learn and grow. Though I don't feel ready, though I don't know what lies ahead, I know that it is my calling. So with that I pack up my life, and the lives of my family to move ahead into this calling. I rest assured that I don't need to be perfect, and that the spirit will shape me into the right person for this calling.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 NRSV)