So we are returning, slowly and hesitantly, to some semblance of normality, although things will undoubtedly be different for the foreseeable future.
One thing that has been bubbling away at the surface for me over the last month in this season, has been the tension I have experienced between calling and qualification. In our previous church a healthy amount of banter came my way because of my love of quotes, with one of my favourites being: “God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called”. I mentioned this quote at a youth festival prayer meeting once and then a few hours later saw it tweeted with my name next to it! (Cue my embarrassment and deep regret at the thought of the original creator seeing it when it was retweeted and subsequently requoted a year later to my credit!).
I believe right now we need to hear this quote louder and more than ever when it comes to pursuing the call of God on our lives, whether that is ministry, career, at home, family life, or something else. The danger I have encountered time and time and time again in my 10 years working in a church environment, and 3 short years planting a church, is the comparison trap. A trap that can rob, that can shrink, that can silence, that can allow us to step back, to say “not now”, “not ready”, “not for me”. And for me the comparison trap is always linked to living with qualification in mind, and not God’s unique, individual, life changing, adventure filled calling:
“I’ve not been to bible college like she has”; “I’ve not got the experience he has got”; “I’ve made too many mistakes”; “I’m not like them”; “I could never do that”; “I wouldn’t do it justice”; “I would fail”.
There have been many times I have jumped into living from a place of qualification. Times I’ve thought that I need to earn, attain, measure up to, be at a certain level, speak a certain way. Times I’ve looked at everyone else doing this church planting thing and tried to follow their path, which I can’t possibly do because they have 20 more years experience and certificates on their walls. The problem with this is that it’s pressured, it’s stressful, and it squeezes out who God wants us to be. We don’t end up doing what we are set out to do, but piggyback someone else’s call. So what can we do to guard against this? Three things:
Keep in your lane
I have been trying to read a lot during lockdown. All sorts: autobiographies, books concerning race, books on prayer… What if I was to rip some pages from each, mash them together and read it as one book? It wouldn’t work. Each book has its own purpose and is to be read as one. When you mix them up, it doesn’t make sense. Don’t go grabbing pages from other people’s stories. You have one that is enough for you. And it’s a story of boldness, radical faith, moments where you are to take a deep breath and whisper: “Over to you God”. When was the last time you experienced a moment like that in your lane? That’s our bread and butter.
I often retreat into the struggle around calling when it’s tough. Am I made for this? Have I got what it takes? I envisage what I would do instead. But what helps is that around my study I have reminders, reminders of the story so far, reminders of wins, reminders of why we do what we do (we keep bottle corks and write significant celebration moments on them!). Reminders that God is good, reminders of verses that shook my life into action, that changed the course of my life forever. Oh, how I have needed those these last few months! When you have those middle of the night scares, where are your reminders of the call of God on your life? Where are the reminders to keep on keeping on?
Keep in community
We need folk who can chat to us, counsel us, pray with us. I have a friend I meet with every couple of months and we go for a walk for two hours and I bare my soul, every thought, every struggle. And he asks the most brilliant questions. That helps remind me why I do what I do, and God uses him to clear any foggy moments. We also have people we can belly laugh with. I now don’t underestimate the importance of those people, especially given the last few months of lockdown. Who are the people you can meet with, socialise with without an agenda or a care in the world, and laugh until you cry with? Protect those groups with all you have.
“God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” Remember that, but please don’t quote it with my name.