I am not a theologian, so I won't pretend to be one. I am simply a Jesus follower, who has the same Holy Spirit living inside of me that a theologian has. That's my only qualification for writing this post; that and my own life experience. As we get closer and closer to our move to Ethiopia, I have been reflecting a lot on our calling. When I say calling, just so that we are all on the same page, as the term tends to be interchangeable and muddy, I am referring to God's intimate, individual invitation to a person, to partner with God in His Kingdom work here on earth, by carrying out a specific task. I don't want to spiritualize the definition or get too churchy, so let's agree on this definition for the sake of this post.
I have shared so many times here about how God drew our family into this specific calling, so I don't want to rehash too many of the details. However, it never gets old for me to look back and see how God has slowly, graciously, and beautifully been whispering His invitation to me as far back as I can remember. When, as a little girl, I sat in AWANA mesmerized by those missionary stories read to me, He was whispering. When a little later I felt my heart race as I listened to missionaries who shared their experiences. Or how on every single spiritual gift assessment test that I have taken in my lifetime, my gift always comes up as "mercy", and how I was born loving the broken, underdogs, and rejected people in this world. More whispers. So many whispers, from being drawn to Africa in college and considering teaching in the Ivory Coast, to finally landing on Ethiopian soil for the first time and feeling a peace in my soul that I had never, ever felt before. In realizing when being in Ethiopia those first ten days, that although I was experiencing the worst pain that I had ever imagined, as my eyes were opened to incredible needs and I entered people's stories, that I was also the most content that I had ever been in my life. And the whisperings continued. There were moments, when I knew that I knew that God was moving us to Ethiopia, and I would have an amazing peace, only to have it quickly snatched away by fear and doubt. This happened over and over for three years after landing in Ethiopia. For three years we found very good, logical reasons to say "no" to God's calling - his invitation to join the work He was doing in Ethiopia with street kids.
Even when we witnessed the miracle of redemption in our home with our son, who was a former street child, and understood that we had discovered a great purpose in discipling him and sharing the love and mercy of Jesus, and what it means to live in a family with him, and how God had uniquely skilled us for that task - even when we let ourselves think about how we might use those very same skills for other children in Ethiopia we said "no". Even though, this very "work" of joining God in the transformation of a street child felt so good and right (even in the hard moments), and without a doubt I now know, this is what we were meant to do; we still said "no". Even though we felt the most purpose in abundant family life, and discipling others to find that same joy was the beat of our heart; we still said "no". I am so thankful for a God Who is so patient with us, and just waited and continued to quietly invite us to say "yes", and I am thankful for the people in our lives who saw the invitation long before we did and upon hearing the news exclaimed, "what took you so long?" Such sweet confirmation. God's calling started years ago, it wasn't something that we suddenly woke up and discovered, it was just something that we finally had eyes to see and recognize.
Some may wonder why a call is so important in the first place. Why does it matter if you know you are called, as long as it is something you have the desire to do? And although desire does have a place in the call, desire will not be what sustains us. It is with certainty that I can write that there will be hard, excruciatingly painful, taxing days, weeks, months to come for our family in Addis Ababa. God doesn't invite people to comfortable; He invites them to share in His suffering. There is nothing easy or comfortable about moving a family to a third world country, and this is not me being a martyr or looking for a pat on the back - this is just plain reality. We are walking in, having counted the cost, with the full understanding that what we were invited into will be hard. However, I have great hope, that on those discouraging days, when we are homesick, when we make mistakes, when we lose a supporter, when nothing is going the way we planned, the certainty of this call on our life will sustain us, and the very One Who called us will walk the hard with us.
Adversity is sure to come, because the adversary does not like Kingdom work. The adversary is a pro at planting seeds of doubt, but remaining confident in the truth that we have been invited into this work will keep us grounded. I love that a call always invites us into what God is already doing. His Kingdom advancement is not dependent on us, yet He invites us and carves out a place where the talents He has gifted us with can be used. One thing that God keeps bringing to mind, through various resources, is that there are people that have gone before us in Addis and will come after us, we have no superman complex, we are simply linking arms with what God is already doing. It is an exciting thing to know that we are being invited into this!
I am really thankful for the peace and confidence that this calling brings to my life. To learn more, click here. The creativity and intimacy that He pours into His calls are inspiring. I love hearing the many, many different ways that He is using all of us to advance His Kingdom. Please feel free to share your calling in the comments below. It's part of your story, and part of the Great story He is weaving together. I can't wait to hear yours.