Season 1 - Week 2
“What do we mean by calling?”
When we explore God’s plan for our lives, what are we hoping to discover? For many of us, we’re imagining a time and a place where our talents and dreams converge; where we step into all that we were created to be. But is that right? Is that what calling is really about? Read Matthew 26:36-46
For Jesus, facing his calling wasn’t exciting; it didn’t entwine perfectly with his dreams. For Jesus, pursuing his calling meant walking directly into every human’s greatest fear; it meant embracing a cruel, agonisingly slow and painful death.
Is that the sort of thing we talk about when we talk about calling?
I know it’s not my immediate hope. In my broken human-ness I hope God will call me to something exciting, enjoyable, painless, and both eternally and materially rewarding. While it might not resonate with the rest of my theology, when it comes to calling I find myself in the territory of the self-help mega-pastors who proclaim, from the covers of their New York Times bestsellers:
Become a better you!
Step into your destiny!
Yet Jesus says: 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.’
For Jesus, stepping into his calling meant he had to fight one aspect of his human nature, and draw on his reserves in another: courage.
Jesus’ strength of character is tested in this moment, and he emerges from it in a display of bravery and focus that’s rooted in his identity as God’s Son.
‘Yet not as I will, but as you will,’ he declares.
The problem with a personal calling is that sometimes it’s painfully unique to us. Even as he faces up to the original Gethsemane moment, Jesus returns to discover that his friends have let him down, not once but three times. It’s a clear sign that he’s on his own - that this cup cannot be taken from him because he’s the only man in history qualified to drink it.
Somewhere along the line, I wonder if we got calling mixed up with self-help. When we chose to follow Jesus, we became part of a mission, not some sort of wish-fulfilment club. Sometimes it’s hard; sometimes it hurts. But that’s the point isn’t it? We take up our cross daily and follow him - even to death. As John Wimber once said; ‘I’m just loose change in God’s pocket; he can spend me as he chooses.'
Giving ourselves to that; truly submitting our lives to the will of God, takes character. Being ready to go wherever he wants us; to give up everything we have, to radically change our lives, even to risk them; that takes courage. And as we grow in that, we perhaps become a little more like Jesus himself, who wrestled with those feelings of fear and self-doubt, and bravely won through.
Courage. That’s what we need to talk about when we talk about calling.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
For some of us, calling is clear. Others find it harder to articulate. Take some time this week to reflect on your calling. Give God time to speak. Write it down. Talk it through. Pray it over. Is your calling clear in your mind?
"The problem with a personal calling is that sometimes it’s painfully unique to us."
Are there areas of your calling you'd rather not admit to? Perhaps you're called to be the challenging voice when everyone else stays politely silent. Or maybe you're called to persistently love the young people who respond badly week after week.
Ask God to give you courage to wrestle with your calling this week, as well as courage to lay it down and be ready to give it all.