Impulsive Callings: The “what” may not include the “when”
Has God ever called you to something risky?
Adventurous? Exciting? Perhaps through a prophetic word, a confirmation, an opportunity; maybe it came through a divine revelation, the kind that gnaws at you when you lie in bed, and consumes your thoughts; or a burden, as though you felt the very heart of the Lord on the matter. Regardless of the form it takes, one thing is certain. God calls us to obey—often in ways outside of our comfort zone—and that, in all of its accompanying mystery, is exciting. I remember when Brianna and I experienced God’s calling on our life, and the urge we felt to obey God right that moment. We immediately rearranged our lives, not to mention our emotional and mental state of mind. Unfortunately, that calling never materialized, and we were both left wondering if we heard from God all those years.
The examples of my friend, Dominic Balli, are also exemplar. In one conversation I had with him, he brought up some dreams and ambitions in music stirring in his heart, which he pursued for years, some of which are only just now transpiring. After we shared mutual stories (and laughs), he pointed out that many of those grand callings God gave to him didn’t take place for eight to ten years later! That left me with a sobering thought: When God gives you a calling, he is not necessarily giving you the timing.
Why am I saying this?
I have seen friends and peers ruin their lives by prematurely chasing God’s calling.
For example, I hear lines like these a lot:
“I’m called to ministry—right now!”
“I’m supposed to be with that guy/girl—right now!”
“God’s calling me to this job—right now!”
“God is telling me to move to Russia—right now!”
“I think we are supposed to get married—right now!”
The pattern is predictable: God’s calling = right now.
But sometimes God may indeed call you to the former, while you mistakenly assume the latter. And unless you hear God giving you a time, or a specific command to “move immediately” you should consider that He might be revealing the ambiguity of his plans just to excite you, or refocus your attention on him, not so you can “help” make it happen. When you rush too quickly, you end up working outside of His will by pursuing a God-given calling through power-hungry cravings and willpower; God never blesses those self-reliant efforts. In any place outside of God’s will, your calling will likely not happen the way you envisioned, and you will find yourself entertaining all sorts of explanations, dead ends, and endless circles of bewildering excuses. Kind of like where we were at in the beginning of the story. Where did we go wrong? We moved without him telling us when. And we can call it radical all we want. Premature obedience is still disobedience.
What should we do with God’s big callings?
Maybe two examples from the Scriptures will help; one, Joseph, the other, Mary.
Gen 37:3-8 (HCSB)
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
Joseph ends the first book of the Bible with a lofty calling, to save all of Egypt. Yet, he blabs his calling (which came in a dream) and ends up exacerbating the divide between the brothers that already hated him for the favoritism shown him by his father.
Now contrast this with Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Luke 2:15-19 (HCSB)
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
This might be the greatest calling on earth! An angel shows up in the home of a poor, Jewish woman during the Roman empire, to tell her that she will carry the incarnate God of the universe to term…as a baby!?! Had I received a revelation a fraction of that weight, I would have posted it instantly on Facebook, and perhaps started an Event Page to get things rolling. You know, all grassroots style. But notice her response to this astonishing message in the last verse: “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (19). No wonder she was so “highly favored” (Luke 1:28, KJV). We have much to learn from her.
What should you take from all of this? Simple.
When the Lord gives you a revelation, be quick to listen, and slow to speak.
Store it away in your heart for prayer, rumination, further confirmation, introspection, community discernment, the council of your elders, and the sovereign hand of God to move your calling into a place in history. Refuse to succumb to impulses brought on by your insecurities and desire for position, security, or control. And enjoy this process, for it is often in the waiting that God prepares you for the calling.
Some of you have no idea what you’re supposed to do now, much less, tomorrow.
Congratulations—you’re normal! And for all your lack in discerning God’s specific calling, you can still find enough comfort through the everyday wisdom he will graciously supply to you.
What happened to some of those dreams and ambitions Brianna and I had? To put it in Dominic’s words, we realized they may not happen for 10 years—maybe even 50 years! So we stored those things away in our hearts, and decided to live in the present. This is true of everyone: God can change the course of your life 50 years from now, but why would you waste the next 50 years thinking about it? As Brianna and I decided to immerse ourselves fully in the present, we realized that God had a tremendous calling on our lives right now–something we couldn’t imagine and have never suffered regret over. It has been so liberating and exciting to follow in that. Do you have a burden on your heart for something, somewhere, or someone that is not yet materializing? Store it in your heart, keep your hand on the plow, and your eyes on Jesus. Very little else matters.