When Imposition and Calling Collide
We get really excited about the Lord’s calling. “The Lord is calling me to do this or that,” we think, and we’re up for the challenge, whether it be living among the poor, working overseas, or being a light in our business place. Life is awesome because we have a purpose, and we feel special because the Lord has singled us out to do His important work. Even when things get tough, there’s no problem – the struggle and hardship are just part of the process, and we patiently tackle any obstacles because overcoming them helps fulfill His calling.
But. What about the times when we feel roadblocked by things unrelated to our calling? Sometimes we’re faced with difficult people, sickness, or interruptions, and we feel totally imposed upon. Our time and attention, instead of being channeled toward fulfilling the Lord’s call, have to go toward “dealing with” draining circumstances and people. We get annoyed, frustrated, and impatient.
Nate and I have felt all of this first-hand. As many of you know, we feel the Lord has called us to work with pilgrims in Santiago de Compostela. Over the past few years, we’ve faced several obstacles, tons of bureaucracy, and many overwhelming tasks, and we’ve taken it in stride and systematically done whatever was needed because it’s (usually) led to forward progress. It’s all been worth it.
However, I hate being imposed upon and interrupted from “the Lord’s work” of getting Pilgrim House up and running. And there have been plenty of those intrusions: sickness, car problems, broken toilets and water heaters, a bank we had to spend hours on the phone with to get our case straightened out, unnecessary church drama, a dead cat in our garage space. “The Lord has called me to set up a pilgrims’ ministry in Spain!” I yell in my head when one of these things happens that demands my immediate attention. “Stop getting in my way!” I’ve felt that anything that interrupts me from the Lord’s original calling just should not be there.
Over the past year the Lord has been saying, “What if there are times when the imposition is the calling? What if I’m calling you to respond in a Christlike way whether or not it contributes to Pilgrim House?” After all, even before He called us to work on Pilgrim House, He called us to become more like Him. So maybe He allowed our car, toilet, and water heater to break down so we could depend on Him to provide good solutions (which He did) and teach us not to worry. And maybe He put those difficult people in my path because He was calling me to learn how to treat them with compassion and care.
One of my good friends, Ana, has a disabled teenage son. He needs a full-time aide at school and when he’s overly stressed out at home he acts out and needs to be restrained. He might not be able to live on his own when he’s an adult, which means he might be with Ana and her husband forever. One day I asked Ana if she ever felt like she was just at the mercy of her son’s condition – did she struggle with feeling imposed upon? In her wisdom, Ana said that the Lord had purposely placed her son in her family, and that meant that the Lord was specifically calling her to be his mom. It was a high and special calling because it demanded a lot from her, but it was just that – a calling she wanted to fulfill well, not an imposition to just be endured and suffered through.
So, can I get just as enthused about becoming more like Him as I do about serving pilgrims through Pilgrim House? Can I look at some of these interruptions as just part of the process, and patiently face them because overcoming them will help fulfill the calling of becoming more like Christ? Instead of feeling at the mercy of unforeseen circumstances and difficult people, I can look at them as special invitations from the Lord to respond with grace and a spirit that’s worthy of Him, and to not let Satan steal any joy.
In the end it will be worth it. I think I can get excited about that.
Note: We took this photo this summer at a Chicago Fire soccer game. On the left is our niece A, who’s watching our baby fall down and is right about to stand and pick him up. In the middle is K, who’s overwhelmed by the whole experience and wants to block it out. And on the right is R, who feels totally imposed upon by the noise and heat and can’t wait for the game to be over. I thought it was a fun illustration of the attitudes we can adopt in the face of uncomfortable situations.
And a caveat: Some difficult situations probably shouldn’t continue. For a good book on this concept, please read Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. We highly recommend it.
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