As I sat in a regional conference for the denomination of the church I was attending in 1993, I was certain that I felt the prompting of God moving in my life to pursue a vocation as a pastor. By the Fall of 1994, I was enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary with all the excitement and anticipation that comes along with a new life adventure. When graduation rolled around in 1998, I recall a sense of wonder about the road ahead. I was excited.
Nearly fourteen years later I wonder if I’ve missed something. While I wasn’t sure what to expect as I left the halls of academia to enter into the real world of pastoral life, there is still a sense of wonder about the road that still seems to be ahead of me. Some days I feel no closer to whatever I was supposed to be moving toward than I did in 1998.
Donald Miller recounts his experience hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in his last book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” He talked about how hard it was and how fit he had to be to make the attempt to walk this path and how so many try and fail because they just aren’t prepared for the challenge. They can train and do everything they think to do to get ready for it, but sometimes it just isn’t enough.
While I was in seminary Stacy was one of my best friends. He and I worked together for a time, we shared the experience of becoming parents and took a lot of classes together. He had an incredible intellect. If anyone was made for the rigors of theological study, it was Stacy. Not too long ago, he and I were chatting about what seminary didn’t prepare us for. He mused that if someone truly wanted to be prepared for ministry it might be better accomplished by being locked in a room with a 300 pound man and engaging in a wrestling match. Stacy painted the image with much more colorful language, but I think you get the picture.
The circumstances of life can pound on us in ways that make us wonder what in the world we’re doing here. They can feel relentless and daunting and can suck the last drop of energy from us. But if the calling God is there, none of that really matters and the will to forge ahead is not found in circumstances but in something much more significant.
St. Paul wrote some amazing words to followers of Jesus in Rome. The letter he wrote contains what many call his most important theological legacy to the Christian Church. At one point he reminded the Gentile believers that although there were many people in Israel who opposed the Good News, the calling of God upon them remained. He wrote “God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.” (Romans 11.29, NLT)
1993 was the year I was stirred to begin this journey. I will continue to walk the path ahead. I will cling to the irrevocable calling.