Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Questions from a cynical heart

Why is it that I become so cynical when people share about God's calling in their life?

How can we truly, really know when God has called us to something, especially something so specific? Why do youth ministers, who have clearly heard "God's call" to go into ministry, only last 18 months, on average? Do we really hear God? or do we mis-hear him? Could it be that he desires all his children go into ministry, and so we feel him move in us, but then our preconceived ideas of ministry make us try to squeeze that desire into our boxes of fulltime ministry--missionary, pastor, children's minister, youth pastor? What if God desires that we minister where we are, whether a fulltime pastor, teacher, doctor, lawyer, engineer, business man? Could it be that our definition of ministry is too small, too confined and too stagnant for the creative, resourceful and strength-giving God that we serve?

Why is it that so often we go back on our promises to God? Do we think he'll just understand? We feel him in us, and we respond by promising our life away, but is that what he really wanted from us? Maybe, could it be, that God wants our availability more than our promises? After all, when Jephthah made a rash promise to God in a moment of spiritual fervor (Judges 11:29-40), God held him to it, and he ended up having to sacrifice his very own daughter; would he not have wished to take that promise back? Why do we think our promises to God can be taken so lightly that within a year we will have denied them with the very direction our life has taken? Why do we think that by simply wanting and deeply desiring it we will fulfill our promises when we consistently make decisions that take us further and further away from our commitment?

Is this cynicism, then, reasonable and expected, after having seen so many misdirected promises? Or is there hope for my cynical heart?


nathan118 said...

Hey Sarah, good topic for discussion.

I've always struggled with the question of "to what extent does God speak to us in our daily lives?" I think mostly I'm inclined to believe that he doesn't speak to us on a daily basis as we would think of a friend speaking to us. I believe the Holy Spirit is an important part of our daily lives, but is the Holy Spirit giving us daily guidance about what to do and what not to do? "Go out with her, she will be your wife." "Yes, go into ministry, it is my will." "Yes, pull over and help those people with car problems." I don't think that happens.

I do think we can be in constant contact with God, but I don't think he's saying anything new to us. The bible is full of guidance about how we should live, and I'm not sure it gets anymore specific than that. Take dating for example. God has outlined what is important in a mate, and that's what he wants us to find. I don't think he gets more specific and says "yes, that girl you like, she is the one I have chosen for you." I think that's just people making stuff up in there head or trying to justify their feelings. The bible tells you what you need to know, and you have to make your own choices.

Sarah said...

What moved me to write this was being at CIY, seeing so many kids commiting to full-time ministry, when they had just, the night before, recommitted their lives to God. It made me wonder about how God calls someone. When I was in Bible college, I saw plenty of people who had made commitments at CIY that really had no desire to make ministry their full-time job.

What I think God does instead is this: he is always calling us into a closer relationship with him. And just like in a human relationship, the more time we spend with him (through the Bible, prayer, meditation, etc.), the more we understand what he likes and doesn't like, and the more we learn to recognize his voice. (Not only does he use his Word to speak to us, but he also uses the circumstances we are in, his Spirit within us, and the people who make up his church.) As we identify closer with his heart, we are moved to action according to his desires. And especially with his Spirit in us, I really do think that he can and does speak to us, sometimes about very specific things. Most likely this won't be in a loud, audible voice, but I have felt him move in me to pray for someone specific, or to reach out in a certain way because of a very specific need. But I don't always follow his leading, and each time I do that, it causes me to harden my heart against his voice, so that it becomes harder and harder to identify his voice.

So, while I agree with you that the Bible tells us what we need to know, and we definitly have to make our own choices based on that unchaning truth, I also firmly believe that God can and does speak to us specifically. And while no one can really say whether we have or haven't heard God's voice, we will each be held personally accountable for hearing him correctly, or shutting him out.

Amy said...

porque escribes en dos blogations, amiga? no supe que todavia utilizas este. y ahora no se cual direccion a poner en mi blog para tuyo. tambien...escribes cosas buenas. me gusta leer lo que piensas...yo creo que si, dios habla con nosotros. el hablaba con los hombres y mujeres de la biblia...porque dejaria hablar con nosotros ahora? pero creo que it more complicated than it has to be; hearing God.

Denise said...

Sarah-I was unaware you were active again until I came across this by accident. I love the issue of 'calling.' I think I have two thoughts on it today. One, that calling is not merely a moment, but a process. God does call some suddenly, but most others he calls over time, which requries a process of getting to know him (so as to be in conformity as you mention), and also to know ourselves. I believe we're partners in this. Which leads to my second thought--with limited views about what God 'calls' us to, we may assume that our own talents and desires are not sufficient to a calling. If you can only be called to ministry, you may try to shove yourself into the call despite the ill fit. But if God calls to teaching, counseling, singing, painting, nursing, etc., then maybe it's worthwhile to locate and develop our gifts so as to use them for God. I've got a sneaking suspicion we're all 'called,' but that we understand certain callings as 'special'--specifically callings involving explicitly ministerial professions. But what if we need to ordain teachers, doctors, computer programmers and sanitation engineers as well in order that they have a sense of God's ability and desire to work through whichever profession he has gifted one for?

Sarah said...

Hear, hear!

Thanks for your thoughts, Denise. I especially like your observation that often a "calling" is a process. God uses what he has already been pouring into our lives--he doesn't just have you wake up one day and realize you should be doing something completely unrelated to where he has led you so far.

I believe that as a church, we should definitely be encouraging people to use their talents and passions for God, to be used in ministry, whether full-time or not. And we need to broaden our view of ministry. Our ideas of what ministry really is seem to skew what we expect a "calling" to be. If we are being called to serve God with our lives, why wouldn't it be this special, unmistakable experience? Why, then, would we have to work at conforming to God's heart?