This piece was written by Seanna Wong. Read her bio.
I’m thinking seriously on what a life in ministry means. I typically crowd "Ministry" with everything I assume and envision will be difficult and strenuous. When I picture ministerial life now, I foresee having to speak up for and to things I might prefer to remain silent on. I expect having to bite my tongue in order to stay quiet when all I really want is the last word. I assume I will have to intentionally practice giving the benefit of the doubt and living to make my prayers as frequent as my breaths- all tasks that instantly tire me as I think on them. I sit and wonder why I still feel the pull to service in this way and more so, wonder why I resent the feeling.
I was recently asked to speak at North Park University’s weekly CollegeLife service. I went back and forth on why I definitely shouldn’t and why I certainly should. I looked at myself through a critical mirror, pointing out all the mistakes I make. I thought about all the times I silently judge and make promises I can't keep. I thought about the grudges I hold and the issues I have not attempted to forgive. I looked and saw a person adorned with gaping holes, a person unfinished and fluctuating. I looked long enough and had a strange thought that perhaps the person gaping, unfinished, seeing themselves as unwholesome and thus as unfit is exactly the person Yaweh looks, and has looked, for. With that thought, my only answer to speak was yes.
After the sermon I was greeted by a number of friends who hinted that perhaps my calling was not in social science but instead in ministry. I was flattered, awestruck even, but more so standing in disbelief. I thought this was a onetime solid I was doing with God, that last basketball game in White Men Can't Jump, a short stint of obedience, not an actual thing I committed to. I'd heard the word "calling" so many times I couldn't get it out of my head. I started to criticize it's use, envisioning seminary students describing their call to ministry after a mission trip or feeling called after ‘God forced them’ into ministry. I don’t want to be forced into anything, let alone and taxing and, what I view as a, heavily weighted field. In response, I ignore “the call”, if there is one. I placate the words of friends and family who say it might be what I should look into. I continue on with the goals I imagine are best for me, all the while feeling as if I’ve left God, or my destiny, or something in between, left on read.
Separate yet similarly, I was contacted by a friend, well more of an acquaintance, a few months ago asking if I’d be interested in getting coffee as they’d like to get to know me more. During a time in the semester where I felt like I had no time to myself, I craved being alone but didn’t want to rudely say that. I gave the few dates I was available but never really followed up. Each time and day never seemed to work, but they would text or see me in person and ask if there was any other time that worked for me. They just wanted to learn more about me; get to know me, understand me better. Fall break came and went, as did Thanksgiving. The conversation fell flat on my end as I saw this want to get to know me as more of an obligation. I ignored messages and told myself I’d reply in the morning, only to realize too many mornings had awkwardly passed. Finally, I received a text asking if this person had done anything to offend me that was impacting my behavior towards them. They apologized for something they may have inavertedly said or done and wondered if I was okay. I read the message, confused, and let out a sigh. I sent back a curt message that could have been softer only to receive a reply that earnestly read along the lines of: "Thanks for being gracious with me. Let me know whenever you’re free, I’d love to catch up sometime". I read it and instantly felt washed in shame. I felt sick as I was anything but gracious in the entire situation, somehow met with a kindness I did not understand.
A few days later I was speaking with a friend describing my own shortcoming, and posed that in this situation isn’t God usually the one we view as the acquaintance. The one who reaches out saying he’d like to get to know us better, learn our likes and dislikes, understand what makes us laugh, and what we’re thinking about even though He already knows. Isn’t He the one who checks in to see if we got his message and if we’re at all free today or this weekend and if we’re okay. Aren’t we commonly the ones who have ‘too much to do’ or who shrug off sharing ourselves with anyone else when we don’t really have to. Don’t most normally assume the role of annoyance at another who wants to take up our time and schedule, replying curtly with how busy we are while God echoes, thank you for begin gracious with me. Let me know whenever you’re free, I’d love to catch to sometime. That friend then asked me if God is like the friend that wants to get to know me better or if the calling is that friend who asks if I’m interested and if I have some time, and if my response to ministry is, “maybe I do, maybe I don’t. I’ll let you know in the morning” until far too many morning pass and the opportunity is long gone and I am only left with guilt that I did not answer in time.
The whole situation has made me view people, "callings", and God more deeply, more personally. No longer as abstract, separate fields but somehow intertwined and mingled. Too often do I leave situations, opportunities, ideas, and people on read, not understanding the merit in engaging them. Too often do I assume I know enough when I constantly taught more in both victory and shortcomings.