Sylvester told me today that he had received a postcard from Bob, one of my students who had spent a few days at the Abbey. He was beaming with joy and gratitude. This makes me realize how small signs of friendliness can create much joy and small disturbances between people much sadness while the "great events" of the day often do not touch us so deeply. An unexpected note from a friend or the passing remark from a neighbor can make or break my day emotionally, while inflation and recession, war and oppression do not touch my emotions directly. A distant catastrophe has less effect than a nearby mishap, and an interpersonal tiff raises more hackles than a world-wide calamity. The burning down of the monastery would be less "dangerous" than rivalry within its unharmed walls.
But how little do we use this knowledge? What is easier than writing a thank you note, than sending a card "just to say hello," or to give a call "just to see how things have been." But how seldom do I do this. Still, I realize that every time someone says, "I liked your talk" or "I appreciated your remark" or "Your note really helped" or "You really seem to feel at home here" - I feel my inner life being lifted up and the day seems brighter, the grass greener, and the snow whiter than before. Indeed, the great mystery is that a small, often quiet immaterial gesture can change my heart so much. The way to the heart always seems to be a quiet, gentle way. Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary
I just read this quote this morning. I would have more to say about it, but I have a couple notes to write.
I just met an interesting young man. Actually, he appears to be young, but he is 38. (That is young in comparison to me, but not necessarily overall.) I met him at the barber school to which I go for my hair cuts. I love going there because I enjoy meeting the different barber students and learning some of their stories and dreams. I rarely have the same student twice. Today, I met a new barber for me, yet he has been there for a year. He was fairly confident in his abilities, and so he talked some. The newer barber students rarely whisper a word.
Our conversation began with him apologizing to me. He was expecting an important phone call. He knew it would interrupt my hair cut, so he wanted to let me know ahead of time. Sure enough, his phone rang about 2-3 minutes into the hair cut. After a fairly brief phone call, he returned. I mentioned to him that his important phone call went pretty quickly. That comment opened up a conversation of what he was doing. This man works in finances, insurance, and mortgages. But now he is tired of it, and is eventually leaving that world behind. Two days a week he is learning to cut hair. His goal is to open his own barber shop. After working a long time in finances, he is thrilled to be cutting hair. He hates his old career. He has found his calling.
I have found my calling also. I greatly enjoy being a pastor. I know this is where God has called me. I wanted to tell my barber that I understand what he means. However, he didn't seem to have an interest in learning about me. (People love talking about themselves if you give them a chance; yet most don't want to learn about others. Have you ever experienced that?)
Anyway, have you found your calling? A calling is not based on a job title. It is the work in which you know God wants you to be doing; in fact, he seems to have shaped you for it. The work or task seems to fit you like a glove. It seems God created you for it. It could be anything: barber, financial planner, pastor, housewife, custodian, mechanic, and so forth.
Let me close with this thought from Brennon Manning in The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God's Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives, “Everybody has a vocation to some form of life-work. However, behind that call (and deeper than any call), everybody has a vocation to be a person to be fully and deeply human in Christ Jesus.” Enjoy your callings.
Have I ever taken a sink out of a bathroom? Not at all.
Have I ever taken a bathtub out of a bathroom? Not at all.
Have I ever moved a toilet? Only once.
Have I ever tore down bathroom walls? Not at all.
In other words, have I ever gutted a bathroom? No, not at all.
Yet, God used this opportunity to do these things to renew me. Isn't it amazing what God uses to renew people? He gave me the opportunity to serve him in a totally different way, and it was refreshing. I concluded each day of work with a shower, because I was soaked with sweat. It was 95 degrees plus every day. Of course, on my last day of work in which I was digging a ditch in an unfinished side of a basement, every ounce of me oozed perspiration. My wallet and the money in it were wet.
Have I ever eaten dahl or haystack? Not at all.
Have I ever taken a ride in a 4 wheel drive over rocks, through mud and large puddles, and down embankments? Not at all.
Have I ever listened to stories of those who serve God? Yes, many times. What wonderful stories of how God was at work to bring a person to know God! And, what wonderful stories of how God was at work in their ministry!
Last week all these activities happened as my family and I served at JAARS. It was officially a vacation for me, but the hard work rejuvenated me. "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. (Isaiah 40:30-31)" So, the Lord God took this ministry trip, and used it to revitalize me. More than any other self-focused vacation, it enlarged my view of God, and thus added spring to my step. Thus, what cabins in the woods or times by the shore failed to do in the past, serving our wonderful God in a different way in a different setting provided new energy. Maybe, I should beware of those "comfort self" vacations.
As a group of college students toured the slums of a city, one of the girls, seeing a little girl playing in the dirt, asked a guide, “Why doesn’t her mother clean her up?”
“Madam,” he replied, “that girl’s mother probably loves her, but she doesn’t hate dirt. You hate dirt, but you don’t love her enough to go down there and clean her up. Until hate for dirt and love for that child are in the same person, that little girl is likely to remain as she is.”
If Jesus saw that situation, what do you think he would do? Don't you think he would get to know the mother and her daughter? And through that relationship of love, don't you think he would try to bring about the hatred of dirt/sin? If Jesus would do that, what about you and I? As followers of Jesus, should we not do the same? Are there people around us who need Jesus working in you?
John Melhorn is first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ, but he is also a husband, father, and pastor. Watch out on the road, for you will often find him bicycling somewhere.