The place God calls you

Published 10:08 am Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Charles Qualls

Figure out how to make a living doing what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” That’s the wisdom I’ve heard from the business world a thousand times. You’ve probably heard people say this, too. Makes sense on some level, though we all intuit that most never figure out a way to make a living doing what they love.

Still, we understand how this could be true for those who manage to pull it off. Maturity tells us, though, that we all have to make a living doing something even if it isn’t the thing we so deeply love.

The Christian faith has different language for this. Despite what irresponsible televangelists may scoop up and dish out to the vulnerable, we are promised no lavish payout for following Christ’s ways. Yet, we are each called by God to live as though we have been transformed by Christ.

This calling can come in myriad ways. To some, it is as obvious as the apostle Paul’s so-called Damascus Road experience. For more of us, the call of God upon our lives is more like the soft and quiet voice that is like the cooing of a dove.

Author Frederick Buechner has a compelling way to talk about working out our faith’s calling.

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” Buechner says.

Let those words breathe for just a moment. Read that sentence again and say them aloud maybe.

Now, the work begins trying to figure out exactly what they mean. We have to wonder just what Buechner was getting at. But our souls cry out that he is absolutely right, even if we still aren’t settled on his point. Then after we work at figuring out what he meant, we realize we have an even bigger task. For now, we have to figure out what his words are supposed to mean for our own living.

Some of us haven’t been “glad” in so long we’ve forgotten what that’s like. We haven’t been thankful, satisfied or happy because our culture can pull our expectations so far out of line. Discovering a deep gladness is a quest that some of us would do well to engage. If Buechner is correct, and I am convicted that he is, then God’s calling can’t come through to us fully until we reconnect with that sense of gladness.

Next, we have the challenge of getting in touch with the world’s deep hunger. Our entitlement, our bitterness, our fear or our anxiety can get us out of touch with a world around us. We can quickly disconnect with anyone’s need but our own.

Soon, we are rationalizing why no one is truly suffering. Or, that no one really deserves anything we could share with them. Quickly, we fall into the trap of writing off not only our own richness but others’ sufferings as well.

I had a church member one time who was as generous a soul as I have ever been around. He had worked hard, and most considered him to be a true, self-made success. His background brought him no head start. Yet, he had done well and had amassed what most would regard as a fortune.

Almost any time we were trying to help those in need, he would give. Nearly any time there was a service project, he was there to work like anyone else. He told me, “Charles, I have been so blessed in life. I have made a lot of money. But I couldn’t enjoy a bit of it if I knew there were people around me in need and I wasn’t helping anyone.”

Oh wait. I almost forgot. Buechner’s wisdom doesn’t only apply to conventional “wealth” nor just to helping the usual “poor.” There are so many ways in which our neighbor, our loved one, our co-worker or our friend can be impoverished.

The discouraged person is poor in a way. The hopeless person is impoverished. The guilty soul is thirsting for the grace of forgiveness and acceptance. The lonely neighbor is hungry for someone to include them. The person who feels useless these days is needy until someone calls upon them.

We live in a world that surrounds us with need. We all are rich somehow; we all are needful somehow. “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Join me in listening, for God does speak.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.