Circa early 2000’s:
“Have you ever considered ministry?”
Excuse me, what? Of course I have. A few years back, the parking lot, sun blazing. It was really hot. No thanks.
Throwing the last pieces of drum equipment into their respective bags, I searched for the best way to respond. I mean, I didn’t want to offend the guest speaker for our winter retreat. Awkwardly, I looked up for a second. I guess it’s kind of an honor to be asked. But in my own teenage world of friends, fitting in, getting grades, running and eating uncontrollably because my metabolism was like rocket fuel, ministry was the furthest thing from my mind. So in my best attempt to be respectful while also seeming semi-interested, I muttered to him, “No, not really….why are you asking?” Great strategy, put it back on him. As I was busy congratulating myself on a well-played hand, he said a few things. After a few moments, he finished up. Right on cue, I said thanks and walked off, wondering why this guy, who I just met a few days ago, would ask such a substantial life question. I bet he probably said something that would’ve been helpful when I asked why. Maybe I should have paid attention. But I mean, I’ve got my whole life in front of me. I haven’t even graduated from high school yet, and I’m just trying to enjoy my winter break. So I side-stepped his question and trudged through the snowless fields of that Texas retreat center, the ground’s dead grass crunching in cadence with my really cool Nikes. Time to get on the bus and head back to Dallas.
In the following weeks, though, I couldn’t shake off the question. It was like those words had made landfall on my imagination and were now moving further into my comfortably constructed life (Well, really it was more my parents who had constructed it. I was just basking in it.) Then, the second wave came crashing in. Prayer times were littered with snapshot visions of ministry and what could be. Uninitiated conversations about calling kept happening with people I respected. It almost seemed like my youth pastor and the leaders were all colluding together to execute some sort of masterful, step-by-step plan to ask me the ministry question each time I saw them (I got so paranoid that I even asked one of them if they were somehow in concert with each other. They weren’t). And finally, the kicker. During that time, I wrestled with a lot of different parts of Scripture. Chief among them were John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” and Mark 8:34 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
At some point during those two months, I slowly began to learn how to surrender to Christ and deny myself. Jesus was showing himself to be far better than anyone or anything in my life. I wouldn’t say that I was saying “yes” to ministry or “no” to ministry. Looking back now, I don’t think I even knew what ministry really was (that’s another post altogether). I was simply learning how to follow Jesus, the Faithful One who was and is my life, my strength and my eternal hope. In this satisfying surrender, I started to meet with the God of mission, this Hound of Heaven, who pursues me in Christ and reveals His heart to me.
It’s surprising how a few words, strung along together into a question, can so radically affect us. God’s words are different for each one of us. No matter who you are, what you do or where you are, God is present and speaking to you. As you meet with Him, what are God’s words for you? Where might his voice lead you? What is his call for you today? Don’t just listen. Respond. Only then will you know Him as the One who says, “Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home. Rise, clasp My hand, and come.”
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat-and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet-
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
Now of that long pursuit,
Comes at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
“And is thy Earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me.
Strange, piteous, futile thing;
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught” (He said),
“And human love needs human meriting;
How hast thou merited –
Of all Man’s clotted clay, the dingiest clot?
Alack! Thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee, I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms,
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home –
Rise, clasp My hand, and come.”
– Excerpts from “Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson
Photo Credit: “Hound of the Baskervilles” by Bialy