July 8, 2012.
We are having a simple lunch when the conversation lags and I ask Richard: “So, honey, how are you doing?”
“Not too well.”
I can only understand through empathy, and that is not much help. This is something which I, no one, can ‘fix’ for another person. Suggestions as to what to do, good causes, productive activities only sound trite and self-serving. I don’t want him to feel lost because that is uncomfortable for me. I cannot grasp the depth of what he feels.
“This was a calling…” he trails off. We sit quietly for a few minutes.
“Tell me…do you remember…was there a particular moment when you knew you were being called into the ministry?”
And I hear a story that I’ve never heard before. Although it is really Richard’s story to tell, I guess I can document it here until he gets around to writing it himself.
When Richard was 18 he was working with an argricultural company near Ashburton doing chemical analysis. He would ride his bike to and from work. Only recently had he started to attend church, he had to have his parents permission and they were none too happy about his new enthusiastic connection to Christianity.
One day, while riding home, he distinctly remembers that he was ‘called’. He knew without a doubt that he wanted to go into ministry, he wanted to work to serve and to guide others towards a life knowing Christ. He made an appointment with the Minister (they all called him “Pop Whitterford”) at the Methodist church. Pop listened, then in all earnestedness said “Richard, don’t do it. It’s a hard life and it’s not for you.” He went on to tell him what would be involved: two years of Lay ministry, a year to pass some schooling tests, three years to get an advanced degree, three years of ministry, another three years of probation; tests and synod review boards all along the way. It would not be easy. But Richard felt the ‘call’ and followed it.
I used to be jealous, wouldn’t it be nice to so clearly hear the call of God as to what one should do with his or her life? Wouldn’t that make like so much more clearer, not easier, but more meaningful and with direction? Now, as Richard faces this time of what to do when the ‘calling’ is different, I am no longer jealous. This is a time of discover, this is also a time to listen again.