One time at a women’s retreat, I was asked to tell my call story. I told this woman the whole, convoluted story—about serving as a missionary in Japan, about being restless in my work and volunteering for leadership roles in my church, about discovering old journals where I had written about my desire to study theology, about my memory of sitting in church as a teenager and hearing the pastor give the sermon and saying, “If I was a man, that is what I would want to do.” I told her that it had taken me a long time, but I finally realized that God was calling me to be a pastor.
The thing about preaching and pastoral care is that we often recognize our own problems in everyone else. I suppose that’s why pastors are so often hypocrites—we’re always preaching about our own issues. Then we have to live with the words that we doled out.
I was sitting in a seminary classroom, taking part in an internship program, and the professor was waxing eloquently about calling. It was all good. She was quoting Frederick Buechner and Howard Thurman, and describing vocation as our deepest joy and what makes us come alive.
A few years ago I was interviewing a couple of church planters, and the conversation turned to finances. The husband-and-wife team, Juan and Cirila Lugo, had paid out-of-pocket for many expenses when the congregation began meeting. They were pleased that it had become self-sufficient enough to hire Juan full time. Cirila told me, without a hint of complaint, about writing sermons on her lunch break while she drove a delivery truck six days a week.
But she didn't call herself bivocational, and rightly so.
The call of Abram is one of my favorite stories in the whole Bible. I have moved quite a lot, and the experience of packing up my life in England to move to the U.S. nearly three years ago is still fresh in my memory. The challenges that face Abram and his family are exciting, probably daunting, but certainly not without their cost. I love the way the call is vague about the destination: it seems that getting moving is more important than knowing the final details.