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Beyond our careers, discerning our flame of faith
I think it can be a challenge to “fan the flame of faith.” We are called to discern what we are going to do about our new birth. How we are going to lead and serve. How we are going to be the light for the world. How we are going to fan the flame to influence even more people.
It’s like that moment Moses had when he was addressed by the Burning Bush in Exodus 3.
Moses has myriad reasons not to do this. One, he didn’t think he was much of a public speaker. Two, he was a wanted felon in Egypt. Three, he had settled down in the countryside with his business and his life and his wife. Why would he go back to Egypt? He thought he already made it.
Of course, as you know, Moses becomes an instrumental person in the redemption of Israel. More than that, his story and the freedom the Israelites experience when they are liberated from their Egyptian oppressors is a story that sustains them throughout their captivity over thousands of years.
The Passover story is what sustained black people during slavery and the civil rights movement and even today. Moses responded to a seemingly illogical call.
Our call might not come in a miracle like the burning bush, but it might seem as impractical as that. It was for the disciples, too, when Moses appears on a mountain again.
I remember my own fiery mountain experience. I was confronted with what God wanted me to do, perhaps what would end up being my vocation.
Sam Fischer, an old servant of God who volunteered at my youth group, once heard me speak in public. He sat me down afterward and told me he thought I’d be a good pastor. But being a pastor was really far from my mind.
At that point in my life, I still thought I’d be a journalist. I wanted to write to impact the world. I quickly become disillusioned with working for the media when I realized that just a handful of conglomerates owned the majority of it in the U.S. I thought public education was next for me. What better way to change the world than by educating the least of these? In fact, I had admired the teachers around me so much that I wanted to be as impacting as them. I graduated Temple University with a degree in education and I taught in the School District of Philadelphia for two years.
It took me a while, but eventually I started getting acclimated to the intense work environment of urban public education and it really felt like I could make a living being a teacher. Admittedly, the first year was almost impossible, but things got better.
Then all of that changed. Circle of Hope had saved my faith just a few years prior, and I was an active leader of the church. Joshua Grace, one of our pastors and a crucial mentor of mine, asked me to be part of a process that would select the next church planting pastor for Circle of Hope. I spoke to my girlfriend, now wife, and we agreed to give it a shot. A few months later we discerned I was the right fit for the job, and I packed my boxes at school, and started.
I feel fulfilled. This feels right to me, and it is what I want to be doing—but I might be able to say that about teaching too (or being a ride foreman for Hersheypark too). I am deeply honored to be pastoring in Circle of Hope and I want to grow and expand as much as I can as a leader. I have so much to learn and I’m even looking forward to the challenges ahead.
I am indebted to the pastors’ team that I am on—Joshua, Rod, and Nate are my heroes. Really! They lead me and nurture me and mentor me.
But leading can be isolating. It is not always rewarding.
That is the dilemma of fanning into flame our life in Christ, though—suffering will follow. It is not a perfect match that we are looking for, but a way to express our true calling: making disciples of all nations, spreading God’s love to the margins just like Jesus demonstrates in the next 10 chapters of Luke.
It’s probably easy to hear this story about vocation and think that being a pastor is easy to call “vocational.” But it seems to me that the question of vocation is much more complicated than just career. Our Burning Bush moment is meant to equip us to be a part of the “family business,” the “world redemption project.”
The idea of a family business is hard for us to wrap our minds around, perhaps, because we’ve been given the world to explore. In the Early church the vocational question was, “Should I be a Christian?” It was dangerous to be one, so the question of how public one would be mattered. In the Middle Ages it was a question of ministry or family: should I marry or should I join the monastery? In the Modern-era, the idea was you could pick whatever job you wanted because your vocation was to work hard. For the postmodernism, the question is more of identity: what does God want me to do with my life? Nietzsche would say, “What does your conscience say? You should become the person you are.” Henri Nouwen says that the question of vocation and identity centers on knowing we are the beloved of God.
Ultimately, I think we need to see what God has for us individually in the burning bush. Discern individually what your ‘calling’ is. Don’t be afraid to do what you want, but ask God how it fulfills his greater purpose and come up with a plan for how you will do that. Talk to someone about it, your pastor, or cell leader, or someone else and see what they give you back. You may want to call someone else out too.
And also, let’s discern what the second act is for Circle of Hope. What does God want us to do next? How will our flame be fanned? What is God telling all of us through the burning bush?
All these things should be discerned together and make some sense cogently. It’s a challenge to be so communitarian in a Western environment, but I pray that we can mutually submit to “God’s will” for us so to speak, and not just make it about settling down or finding the right house or spouse or something. I think God calls us to be even deeper than that.