Courage in Calling

“Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your  very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the

hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade

the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one

human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service

only the wounded soldiers can serve.”

-Thorton Wilder

Having clarity doesn’t always translate to courage. Clarity is a catalyst for courage-- but we’ll get to that. Courage is a word we throw out often and misrepresent almost as much as we throw it out. Interestingly enough, we can't walk courageously if we don’t know what courage looks like. I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons we have an inadequate definition and view of courage is because we have an inadequate definition and view of fear.

Fundamentally, we view fear negatively-- and because of that we try to suppress or dismiss it altogether. Suppressing or dismissing fear doesn’t do away with it; it just causes it to be expressed in unhealthy ways. Maybe you’re super controlling and you’ve masked your fear with a desire for predictability. Maybe you’re irritable and you lash out periodically, masking your fear with anger or frustration. Maybe you’re full of anxiety and the past, present, and future drowns out joy and the sweetness of life because you’re tying to prevent past mistakes from invading your present and “ruining” your future. Or maybe the sweetness is drowned out because you’re trying to relive past successes in the present to “ensure” your future.

Dismiss it or suppress it if you want, but it’s coming out in some way or another. Because we don’t deal with our emotions by starting with suppression, we start by embracing that we actually feel the way we feel. Though fear is one of those emotions we view negatively and rush to suppress or dismiss, there is such a thing as healthy fear, and fear has the opportunity to produce faith if we let it and courage is a fruit of faith. We can’t walk courageously in calling unless we embrace there are some things that cause us to be afraid…

Courage…

The most fearful I’ve been in my entire life was 2 years and a half years ago. I was battling depression, wrestling with purpose, trying to figure out what being a good father and husband looked like (not just on paper), and scared out of my mind. That fear came out as sarcasm, withdrawing emotionally from relationships, working harder, and trying to be overly charming so that people wouldn’t notice what was wrong (I know that's hard to believe… me try to be charming…).

Despite all of that, I knew there was a fear that ran deep into my soul. That fear was rooted in my disbelief that God was who he said he was and  that he really cared about my family and me. My heart was fragile and I was afraid I would wake up one day and forsake the God who I proclaimed as King over creation and my soul. I saw the same hands that fashioned galaxies and formed humanity, allowed me to be wounded deeply and I was afraid that they weren’t capable of healing, and that the owner of those hands wasn’t worth giving myself for. If you’ve ever felt or thought along those lines, please know you’re not alone. Before I get into essay/sermon/private journal mode, let me start to land the plane on some thoughts that I think may be beneficial:

1. I had to embrace how I felt and the fear that was present. Embracing it put a face and a name to what was hindering my intimacy in relationships and effectiveness in life. I wasn’t fighting against some secret enemy, I was warring with my soul and the very tangible fear present there.

2. Biblical courage is anchored in the presence of God. God’s presence reminds us of who he is, full of compassion, love, wisdom, purpose, and power! So for me the very person and place I was fearful of was the very person and place I had to run to. There are many verses in the Bible that remind us of the confidence we can find in God's presence, such as:

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

3. God's presence is felt most, through His word (the Bible), through His people (community), His Spirit (in prayer), and His purposes (on mission/serving). Here are a couple of sermon resources that may help: Upside Down and EN-Couraged.

Community is the x-factor, because while all of those environments or conduits of the presence of God seemingly fluctuate with fear, community is the component that depends the least on you. God’s people can come alongside you and help you fight when fear is crippling.

The quote at the beginning of this post was shared with me when fear was ruling.  It reminded me that wounded soldiers fight with dependence on the one who enlisted them, Jesus. Those words spoken to my soul from God’s people invigorated me to run towards God and beg him to be with me---to which He replied and reminded me He never left.

4. Calling is both a journey and a destination. A lot of times we get bogged down in either the destination or the journey, but embracing both dynamics helps us walk courageously. Embracing the destination reminds us that there’s an endgame we can be confident in, one that doesn’t rest on us. Embracing the journey reminds us that there’s a process we work and live in that’s much bigger than us. Both help bring and reinforce clarity.

There’s no courage button that zaps you with emotions and energy to do what you feel called to. Walking courageously is a daily decision and a daily fight but life in a cell wasn’t/isn’t God’s intent.  When calling becomes a cage that traps us in a cycle of work, choosing courage frees us to live purposefully and passionately, knowing the work doesn’t rest on me and the natural fear we all feel isn’t something to be dismissed but a door to have courage lead us to dependence.

The Cage of Calling

God is not merely the Creator of our life. He is also the Author of our life, and he writes each person’s life to reveal his divine story. There never has been nor ever will be another life like mine—or like yours. Just as there is only one face and name like mine, so there is only one story like mine. And God writes the story of my life to make something known about himself, the One who wrote me. The same is true of you. Your life and mine not only reveal who we are, but they also help reveal who God is. -Dan Allender

I really like this quote….alot…I’ll come back to it.

Since humanity committed high treason against the Creator and King, Jesus, we’ve been searching for purpose and significance. I think this truth is seen clearly in the way culture propagates materials that deal with discovering or living out this idea of calling. We want to know why we are individually here and what we are to do in light of that. Unfortunately, unhealthy views of or fixations on calling turn it into a cage that traps us in a cycle of work and significance—leading to burnout, discouragement, or apathetic living. Burnout occurs because we’re fighting tooth and nail to ensure we succeed in calling for our own feelings of significance and in our own strength. Discouragement and apathetic living come because we’ve failed at it so many times that we’ve equated failure with being forsaken by God. Either way calling becomes a cage that traps us in the cycle of work. Life in a cell wasn’t God’s intent, so allow me to think out loud and identify some keys for the cage: clarity, courage, and consistency. (You like the Cs don’t you…it’s the pastor in me.) Today, we’ll focus on the first and dive into the others next week.

Clarity…..

The beginning of my sophomore year in college I was angry, sad, and felt like God was turning His back on me. On my birthday, I laid on the floor in my room crying and ignoring people’s texts and calls to go out and party. I had a sword to my chest, and I remember yelling, “God I’m done….I quit,” then I cried myself to sleep. The next morning I went to church and the sermon was about not quitting—that’s called irony. I never gave up on anything and the first time was on God! In all honesty, there are still some times when it’s hard to embrace the future because of that moment. Did I alter my future or my destiny because I told God I quit, even if I’ve still been pursuing Him? If I may continue speaking candidly, there are a couple of issues with that frame of thinking: the first being my future/my destiny. I really like the aforementioned quote because it expresses three realities: people are made in the image of God, people are made uniquely, and God designed us to know Him intimately and reflect Him personally and corporately. So, I will fight and advocate for self discovery and awareness; however, if we’re created by God and in His image, then “self” discovery and awareness doesn’t occur apart from looking to Jesus and looking at life through Jesus. In other words, my feeling like I altered my future/my destiny meant that I ultimately viewed the focus as myself. (If you can relate, it’s okay to amen in your head; if not, repent, then amen in your head because we’ve all done/do it at some point and time.) Clarity in calling identifies the focus of calling as the Creator, not self-actualization.

6 “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You.

-Nehemiah 9:6

When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.

-Psalm 75:3

3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life and the life was the light of men.

-John 1:3-4

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

-Colossians 1:15-17

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

-Romans 11:36

All those scriptures identify a truth that all things were made by God, through Him, and for Him—all things includes us—meaning the road to purpose runs through the person and work of Jesus, and the focus of calling is found in Him as well. While clarity may not occur in a day, we can remind ourselves daily of the reality of by Him, through Him, and for Him, which can help refine our perspective and focus our enjoyment and activity in life and calling. So, if my skill set changes, my passion runs dry, my faith fails me, and my work is insufficient, the ointment for my conscious and soul is that by Him, through Him, and for Him are all things. Significance and subsequent sweetness and security will be that much richer as our hearts submit to that truth.