From our earliest years, we’re encouraged to pursue success—to find it in our hobbies, sports, education and, eventually, careers.
When I finished college, I had aspirations of being a successful and well paid graphic designer. (Don’t laugh—they didn’t tell us there was an abundance of designers and a dearth of job prospects.) Though I had a rough start to my career (long story), I eventually did start doing pretty well for myself.
Then I became a Christian. And Jesus told me to give it all up (cf. Mark 8:35).
So I left my job, joined the staff of a Christian ministry where I am employed to this day, took a fairly sizeable pay cut (and then took another household income reduction when Emily’s maternity leave ended) and then began to pursue the answer to a big question that’s been in the air for the better part of four years—one of calling.
Recently I’ve been reading Edmund Clowney’s little book, Called to the Ministry, and found his addressing of vocation particularly helpful:
Until we are ready to follow in the steps of that Saviour, discussions of Christian vocation are futile. Had vocational counselors interviewed Simon Peter, they would likely have directed him away from the fishing business. His gifts for leadership were wasted in a two-man fishing boat. But they would hardly have recommended a career in sectarian religious extremism, as a follower of the Nazarene. Devotion to such a cause could, and did, end in crucifixion.
From the twelve apostles to the Auca missionaries of our generation, the history of the Christian church is the history of “wasted” lives. The Christian may tabulate all the assets of his personality and take inventory of his preferences, but he casts all these at the feet of Christ. He is not seeking fulfillment but expendability. He counts not his life dear to himself, for he holds it in trust for Christ. His goal is beyond the grave; the crown of his high calling is in the hand of his risen Lord. (pp. 14-15)
This is the funny thing about the Christian life: while it’s important to use the gifts and abilities God has given each of us for His glory, we’re not called to find our fulfillment in the pursuit of such things. When I left my old job for this one, people—especially family—looked at me as though I had two heads. They didn’t get why I’d move to something where I’d be earning less. It seemed backwards.
And it is. But that’s the thing about the Christian life, and Christian ministry. Life and ministry for the believer are nothing less than counterintuitive.
Ministry is not typically the route to fame and fortune; those who pursue it as such are either naïve fools or devils from the pit. Ministry requires the giving up of our desires for such things.We think less of our fulfillment and more of our expendability for the cause of Christ. And in the process, with (as Clowney puts it) our goal being “beyond the grave” and “the crown of [our] high calling in the hand of [our] risen Lord,” we find our true fulfillment.
It might seem like a “wasted” life to some, but it’s one I wouldn’t trade for anything.