Those who know me will know that I am very people oriented. I can’t help it: I love being with people. They challenge me, they make me laugh, they energize me. 

But the one thing I am not a big fan of in people is this general tendency they have of volunteering categorical opinions of one another to each other. Now, I don’t mind if people opine about your looks, your temperament, even your work style, but there are people who think they have broken the code when it comes to the core of your calling — the things that make your heart pound hard and skip a beat when you are in reverent attention in the sight of God. That, my friends, is a sacred space, reserved only for you and God; no one else is allowed in there and thus people on the outside are generally clueless. In fact, often, what you decide to do will not make sense to the majority of people around you. Because following God’s calling is not a popularity contest. 

Case in point: one of the narratives about my recent job experience was that I am passionate about evangelism, compassionate about “the least of these,” and eager to help the broken-hearted. So far, so good, but it doesn’t stop there. The implication was that something was missing. So to try to explain that, remarks were offered: “He would make a great missionary. “He will find a role as a mission or evangelism pastor somewhere where he will be a lot more comfortable,” etc. Those things may very well be true but does this brace the whole sum of a person’s calling? These are all good things, but are they “the most excellent things,” the things that “God prepared beforehand for us to do”? And with what authority does one make those types of statements?

You see, when people pontificate about one’s calling, it’s the equivalent of intuiting that they know what God’s will for your life is. So, what was once an opinion, now graduates to the level of grand proclamations. They are repeated ad infinitum. And things that are repeated often enough give birth to “facts.” That, by the way, could be a good definition of “fake news.” To make themselves feel better, people will now, categorically, if not condescendingly, say: “He shouldn’t do X; he should do Y.” 

I reject that entire practice as bunk. Yes, it’s true that we each have unique personalities, skills, training, strengths and weaknesses. But God’s calling in one’s life is so much more than “unique” or “personal.” It speaks to that intangible part of your soul — the core of your being. And that’s why I called it “the core of our calling” in the opening paragraph. No one, except the person being called, knows exactly what that calling is and sometimes even the person being called does not know precisely how to explain it. God’s calling is supernatural and supernaturally enabled. 

Moses thought he was slow of speech for a prophet. Jeremiah seemed to think he was too young. Amos was a sheep herder and a sycamore fig farmer. He didn’t even dare call himself a prophet. David wasn’t even brought from the fields to be presented to the prophet Samuel, along with his brothers, as a potential future king of Israel — no one even bothered to think of him who was just a little boy tending sheep. John, the baptizer, was seen as an eccentric, if not as a madman. Mary was a fragile teenager in whose womb the hope of mankind would rest. 

In my own personal life, the missionary who had the greatest impact in my life as a young man in Brazil, because he hit the field at a later age in life, was the one who spoke the worst Portuguese of the bunch. The one who was mocked by his peers is now famous in heaven because of the difference he made in the lives of people like me.

All those people, if God had taken a poll or even informally asked the opinions of their peers about whether He should give them the responsibilities He did would probably never get the job. Such is the nature of people — we look at the book cover and think we already know how good the author is based solely on a clever title, a photograph or a computer generated design.

Paul may have been thinking of this when he wrote these words: “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). 

I guess the practical implication for all of us is this: be very careful not to go around pontificating about what God’s calling on another person’s life should or should not be. When asked to give an opinion, feel free to share, but don’t call to yourself a role that belongs to God and to the individual involved. I can categorically say: that’s NOT your calling in life!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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