By Jesse Medina
On Mother’s Day, my wife and I were listening to the testimonies of various types of mothers in our church. They were beautiful stories of heartache and redemption.
One woman shared about how she had an abortion as a teenager. One woman shared about her inability to conceive and finally hearing from God that she and her husband should adopt.
The last woman shared about her experiences with being a foster parent and she said something very unusual: “This is not something that just anybody can do. God has to call you to something like this.”
Calling. What a spiritual word! What the heck does it even mean?
Now, before I begin this thing, I first want to say that I get it. I get why people use words like this. In this woman’s situation, she wanted to warn people that being a foster parent is not like buying a puppy – it is messy and you’re dealing with a person who likely has some very serious familial issues to be worked through. Pile on top of that the stress and confusion of entering into somebody’s home as a stranger, trying to fit into an already established family with its own history… you can see how something like this might be difficult.
I get it in another way as well. I feel called to be a pastor. Yes, called. It is not just something I think would be pretty cool, though it is that as well, it is a nudging of sorts. I’m tempted to use the word “special” here, but I don’t want this to come across as a sort of “teacher’s pet” type of thing. My call to pastoring is not because me and God are real tight and others are not. If I’m honest, there are times when I think God a fool for calling someone like me…surely he has the wrong guy precisely because we aren’t that tight.
That said, though, I’m beginning to think that the concept of calling is being applied to anything and everything under the sun that is found to be difficult. These days, you can be called to just about anything: pastoring, teaching, adopting, downsizing your house/car, serving the poor, volunteering with the youth group, giving a dollar to a homeless guy, letting a friend live with you, or quitting your job. The fact of the matter is this: you actually can be called to any of these things and more!
But things become problematic when any of these things require a call in order to be done. You see, by mother #3 saying that God has to call you to be a foster parent, she is unintentionally sending the message that without God’s specific and unique call, you will either try and fail, or you are living in direct disobedience to Him.
Further, it assumes that these sorts of things are abnormal and should be abnormal. I will be the first to confess that adopting an orphan is somewhat abnormal – it doesn’t seem like many do it (I haven’t), but we have to ask if this is the way it should be? Should it be that in order for someone to care for another person who has nobody to care for them (whether due to the parents being dead or just negligent) they need a call from God? Should it be that our compassion for others is contingent upon whether God specifically calls us to it?
The problem with associating these good works with calling is that we inevitably set our Christian lives up as exceptions to the rule of normalcy. This, in turn, turns normalcy into…well…normalcy – as if God simply expects us to be “normal Christians” who don’t get involved in the messiness of others’ lives unless we feel particularly called to do so.
The truth of the matter is this: God has already called us to do these types of things. God has already called us to have compassion on the poor, on the orphans and widows and on those who don’t have someone to fight for them. He has already called us to love others as we love ourselves, making sure that their needs are being met and to give of our lives sacrificially so that others may benefit. He has already called us to share the good news about the abundant life found in Jesus.
Love should not be the exception that requires a call, it should be the norm.
So we are now left with two questions: what are you waiting to get involved with and who are you waiting to love before you hear a call from God to do so?
If, like me, you can actually answer those questions, then its time to stop waiting. God already called. We have no excuses anymore.
Jesse spends most of his time struggling with what he knows he should do and what he actually does. He is unendingly grateful for the grace of God for loving him and giving him as many chances as it takes. Hopefully, he’ll manage to get it right at some point. You can learn more about him and read more of his thoughts at his blog, Balancing Tension.