“I feel I am being called to ministry.”
There, I finally said the words I know I should have said long ago. The words I had always been avoiding saying. Not because they were words I didn’t want to say, or because they were bad words to say, but because saying them meant two things. First, it meant that my dreams had just become a reality. And second, it meant that I now had to face that reality.
Up until that moment, I could hide behind my dreams. I could say “I don’t know what I want to do or where I want to go to do it,” and everyone would believe me. Everyone would offer me advice, offer me prayers, and offer me a listening ear. Which meant I could take the easy road– the comfortable road– and stay here as I attempted to reach my dreams. Because my dreams seem so overwhelming; I can’t even describe them in words– I can only see the outcome of them traced inside my head. And even though I felt my heart leading me away, I could stay because no one else would have to know how suffocated, inadequate, and desperate to leave I actually felt, and I would never have to discern whether it was God’s desire for me to leave or just the desire of my own constantly restless and homeless heart. I could run from my fear a little longer as I tried to discover my calling by hiding behind my dreams. But now, now that those words left my mouth, I could no longer hide behind my dreams. I had to go out and make them a reality, and I had to go into my uncomfortable to do it.
I could point to so many times in my life when I probably could have said these words, and I probably should have. I could point to the time I was 5 and imagined all the world’s problems could be solved if everyone on earth were together in the same room and were told to love their neighbor like Jesus would. Or the time I was 10 and sat in church and thought, if even for a brief moment, “wow, being a Pastor would be so cool!” How about the time I wrote speeches-turned-sermons I’d never have the opportunity to give because I felt that something needed to be said and I could say it? Or when I started this blog because I felt I had a voice and could give someone hope, but no one would actually ever want to hear me speak, so I figured I’d just write it instead. Or the countless hours I put into Quizzing and memorizing Scripture not really to win trophies but really just because I couldn’t stop– I couldn’t get enough of it and the more I learned the more I wanted to learn. The moments I’d sit down and pour over the Scriptures trying to take them all in, and I’d try to explain to others just exactly what that passage was saying. Or the moment I sat in my church sanctuary, heart shattered, broken down in tears because there was so much pain and brokenness and healing and hope in the room. And I felt so powerless to do anything because all I wanted to do was tell those there how much God loved them and hug them while they healed, but I couldn’t because my own heart was breaking as I began to truly feel a fraction of what Christ must have felt while He was dying for me. And I wanted to stand up and scream how much God loved the world, but I couldn’t even breath so I was forced to sit, tears barreling down my face, as my Pastor who was supposed to be comforting everyone else was comforting me. The moment when I felt God telling me this was my calling as I sat with a Quizzer who was in tears, shaking, and disappointed, or as I sat later with her friends as they shared their biggest struggles as I prayed with them. Or as I sat by the lake, ready to give up on this calling, and God called me as He had called Peter to “come.”
There were all these moments when I should have said these words. But, there were so many reasons not to, and there are still so many reasons not to. Yet, I said them anyway, because, despite all those reasons, someone had to know.
“I feel I am being called to ministry…
which is exciting but also terrifying.”
She sat back and listened to me tell my story. She listened to me opening up about all my doubts and fears and all the reasons I don’t think I can do this. She listened to me talk about why it took me so long to figure out what I was called to do, and why it took me even longer to admit it to anyone.
I told her how, despite being the first person to tell you that God doesn’t require you to be any certain thing before He calls you, I feel like I’d never actually make a good Pastor. I told her how I wasn’t extroverted enough, or comforting enough, or leader-like enough, or like all the other Pastors I’ve ever met enough. I told her how I was afraid I’d be alone because I don’t believe anyone actually thinks I’d make a good Pastor. And how I am terrified to leave and be alone, because what can a broke college student with no real experience being an adult do? How can I do any of that alone?
I told her how guilty I feel because I don’t think I can do my ministry here, or at least not right now. Because every time I think about staying, I feel trapped, or suffocated, or stuck– like the walls are closing in on me. And I feel guilty because I live in the middle of a city whose violence, poverty, and brokenness is just as bad as it is elsewhere. And I always tell people to look for the broken and hurting people in their backyard– to look for the ministry they need to do to their neighbors and not just to those far away. And here I was telling myself I had to look elsewhere in order to help hurting and broken people when there are broken and hurting people in my own church, my own neighborhood, my own house.
As she listened to me opening up about all this, I could see her smile, at least a little. Because I know she was one of the many people waiting to hear me admit my calling– she was one of the people who had given me opportunity and advice and prayer as I sought to figure out something that so many others had sensed for a while. She was one of the ones who would sit and talk to the other Pastors, my family, and my friends, and pray that I’d figure out the answer to a question they were pretty sure they had the answer to.
When I finished I asked her to share her thoughts and reactions, And I asked her to share her own story. Because it’s a lot less terrifying when you hear the stories of others who have been there.
“First,” she said, “don’t feel guilty about having to leave. We will definitely miss having you here. But, sometimes, God calls us to go. And no matter where you go, you’ll find broken people who need Jesus. But you never know who hangs in the balance if you don’t go. So, if God’s calling you to go, you have to honor that and go.”
“And second,” she said, with a smile, “you don’t have to be anything specific to be a Pastor. You just have to be willing to do it in the way only you can. You have to use your gifts God has given you to fulfill the calling He has given you, even if your gifts don’t seem to be like everyone else’s. You’ve gotta do ministry in the way only Rebekah can. Because others may have your gifts, your strengths, and your calling. But what they don’t have is your unique story.”
After more doubt-filled discussion, God-filled assurances from her, and the sharing of her own story, she prayed for me, as she had done at every meeting we’ve had in the past, and as I know she’d done many times outside of that. I left with a new sense of joy, mission, and peace. And fear. Because the fact that I’m sure of my calling and sure of my call to go doesn’t make it any less terrifying. It doesn’t make the fears or doubts any less. It just gives me a new sense of confidence knowing God’s going with me.
So, I’m taking a leap of faith. I’m no longer sitting in the boat– in my comfortable– waiting for God to show up. I, like Peter, am taking a leap onto the waves and walking toward God despite my fear and doubt. Because if I had faith He would come to meet me where I was if I simply waited long enough, I have to have faith to step out and run to Him in full confidence that He’ll catch me when I begin to sink.