Matthew Husband is a recent Va Tech grad, known to many of you. Matt leaves for Africa this Wednesday to volunteer for a year in AIDS prevention and treatment. Matt is a Baptist (sigh) but he has been involved with Aldersgate in such things as our mission in Guatemala. Here’s the last few lines of Matt’s post about his trip:
“This line of crazy circumstances has proven to me that this is where the Lord is leading me this next year. I continue to pray that the Lord use me the way he intends and that my own selfish desires never interfere with his plan. Although, I am excited beyond belief for the next year, I am still scared to death on how to the Lord is going to use me and mold me….”
Matt’s departure, as well the week I spent last month in Guatemala with some college students and college grads, got me thinking about God’s calling.
As a pastor, perhaps the thing I love most about my relationships with students is how I get to hear them constantly wrestling with and asking about God’s call in their lives. It’s natural they would, I suppose, given their stage of life. By and large, old people (and by old I mean anyone my age and up) have already made their choices- or compromises- and settled into their lives. That’s why, for people my age, the question is more often how they can fit God into their busy lives, but young people, with their lives ahead of them, more often ask how can God use them and their life.
The word we use in church, ‘call,’ comes from the Latin word, vocare, meaning ‘to call.’ It refers to God’s call or Jesus’ ‘come and follow me.’ What’s exciting for a pastor is how young Christians, especially if you get enough Jesus in them, are always responding to that ‘follow me’ with questions like ‘How?’ ‘Where?’ ‘To do what?’
If that’s the upside of ‘call’ and ‘vocation’ then preaching on Isaiah this weekend got me to thinking about what we miss, young and old, about God’s call.
Typically, the way we use the word, ‘vocation’ refers to someone’s career, to their paid work. Some Christians use the word even more narrowly, referring specifically to a subjective ‘feeling’ that calls them into religious work. It’s no wonder then that many assume God only calls people like me, priests and pastors.
Here’s the problem:
Our careers, our work, what we do to pay the bills- none of it is anything Jesus ever says anything about.
The vocation = career equation we’ve set up isn’t a biblical equation.
What’s more, thinking vocation = career is bad news to anyone who is retired, out of work or just hates their job and does it only because they have to.
The earnestness with which Matt wants to be used by God makes me wish that we as the Church could recover an authentically Christian concept of vocation.
Because the biblical equation looks more like this:
Vocation = Each of Us Doing…Anything
God calls each and everyone one of us. Anything we do, in whatever role we have, if it’s done in faith and done to glorify God, then it’s a holy calling. A vocation.
While it’s wonderful (and energizing for me) for young people to struggle with their place in the world and how God can use them, it’s equally true that whether we’re working or volunteering or (grand) parenting you can practice a vocation.
As Kenda Dean says, ‘what matters for Christians isn’t the work we do but the lives we live.’
Or, as Martin Luther said a bit more vividly: God is just as pleased when a father changes his daughter’s diapers as when a priest celebrates the Mass.
So I wish Matt well and I pray for what I already know he’ll be praying for: that he would let God use him and that we would glorify God both in the amazing and in the mundane experiences he encounters.
PS: You can read more of his post here.