“Say whatever you want, it’s a free country.” Was a typical phrase filling the hallways of my middle school. We deflected random off color comments or offensive jokes…or dropped ridiculous things from our lips never thinking twice…just knowing we could say it because, it was a free country.
Recently, I have encountered some words spoken (and written) that have quite literally taken a lot of liberty to create. Words I believe many many American (and Western) Christians believe as truths. Words I would ask you to please pause and consider. Ask yourself the question: “Is this God’s truth?” Or is this something I have heard, and my parents passed down to me, and their parents passed to them…or maybe my pastor or my Young Life leader mentioned. But pause. Ask…is it an American Christian truism…but not actually a Biblical truth? Just pause. Just ask.
The conversations I have had most recently surround God’s will…and God’s call upon our lives. I could write pages and additional posts (and maybe I will someday)…on these topics as well as subjects such as God’s “blessings” and human “suffering.” Americans seem to wrap their own stories like yarn in to a tangled ball of confusion on whether certain circumstances happened because God blessed us or because he was punishing us. They also get very paralyzed by the notion of remaining in God’s will at all times. I would ask (gently and lovingly) dear believer…I wonder if these are actual things to become tangled or paralyzed by, or they are just created from our own American Christian narrative and not God’s intentional interjection?
Today, let’s stick to “God’s call” on our lives. So, as most of you know, Africa messed me up. (In the best way.) It gave me a very different lens through which to view the world. And it has given me a global perspective on God and the Bible and truth. I have been saddened by things I have seen and thankful for them in the same experience. I am different and the way I view life is different. I know what I am going to share today will not necessarily be easy to read or particularly popular…but I feel like it is worth sharing.
Working with college folks is so very sweet and I have loved seeing their authentic and child-like faith flourish. One of the questions that is constantly plaguing my friends though is the question of, “What is God calling me to do?” This does not remain a college conversation though…it continues in to our 30s and 40s…and on throughout life. The more I encountered the conversation the more I was struck by the fact that never once did I encounter a Ugandan who was asking this question in terms of vocation. Ever.
Let me paint a bit of a picture for you of a few of the friends I had and their life circumstances on a daily basis. I had a friend named “Prossy.” She was a single mom. She did all that she could to get her neighbor to watch her children (alongside–no exaggeration–16 other children) while she worked at least a 10 hour a day at her waitressing job. She did her best to simply provide food for her family to eat and a shelter (a single room with a dirt floor) for her family to sleep at night.
Then there was “Anna” who lived a little farther north. She lived in a thatched hut with her mother, and 5 other brothers and sisters. Her father was killed by the LRA. She, being the oldest, had to drop out of school at age 16 to help feed/clothe the younger members of her family and help send her younger brother to school in hopes he might be able to possibly attend University someday. Anna walks just under two miles each day to a large field where she “digs”…which is simply tending a garden and working with local crops.
Prossy and Anna love God. Prossy and Anna desire to know Him and grow deeper in their relationship with God. They NEVER ask what He has called them to do. They are only able to do what is in front of them…the thing that literally puts food on their tables and feeds their families.
I am about to say something that will very likely seem a bit “off” spiritually speaking…or a tad bit radical to a well trained western ear. But I am going to say it because I deeply believe it to be true: Seeking God’s “call” for our lives in the vocational sense is a luxury of the western world.
My friends in Uganda like Prossy and Anna…have no choice but to do the thing that is front of them. To do this job to the best of their ability and to do it as if they are working for God himself. Prossy and Anna’s understanding of God’s call on their lives is to simply: love God and love others. To love their God who has given them life, and breath, and the ability to work/provide. And to love others…the people they interact with everyday, their co-workers, their neighbors, and their families. That is their best understanding of “His Call” on their lives.
And if that is true for my sweet Ugandan friends…do you not believe that is true for us? We do not have some special Christianity that gives us more of a calling than my friends on the continent of Africa. Do we?
Now many of you are thinking, “Ugh, Jenni this is all I have ever known and the lens from which I see life. And I DO live in America and do want to believe God has special plans for my life and future. Doesn’t it say, something about God having plans to give me a future and a hope?” I would say YES…a future with him…and a hope in Him. (Deep breath.) Being a librarian, doctor, or even an evangelist…no. “Seriously Jenni, why are you sharing this with me???” I am not attempting a to burst a spiritual bubble nor am I trying to mess with your theology…I share this with you because I hope it will actually bring freedom.
Maybe this is why I do not feel especially stressed about where I will land in my own vocation. I believe I have learned so very much from every job I have held and I could not be more thankful for my life experiences through Young Life, personal training (POWER), and even now with Rodan + Fields. But my calling…my absolute calling day in and day out is to LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS. That’s it. No matter what we put our hands to…even if we have special “gifts” (and I do believe God has gifts He has given all of us) they are to be used to LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS in our life…today…and everyday moving forward.
I am not saying God doesn’t care about the minutia of our life…he in fact knows the numbers of hairs on our heads…which is pretty impressive coming from this thick-curly headed chick. BUT…I think the amount of time we spend caught up in our heads worrying and wondering if we are called to do this or that…might be far more American than it is a global Christian decision. And therefore if we can shift our thoughts to doing the “digging” we have been given to do THIS day…loving God and loving others…man…I feel like we might be moving toward a far more sane spiritual path to freedom.
I remember struggling with these thoughts and ones like them concerning Christian culture in America…and then was thrilled to discover Jen Hatmaker has put words to paper on the subject as well. She has thoughtfully responded to some of things that had me quite tangled on the subject of God’s will/call. Jen does a beautiful job discussing these concepts in her book and gives scripture to support this sensitive topic–so for further reading, check out Chapter 3 in For the Love.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,