"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." – 2 Timothy 1:8-9 (ESV)
Where were you when God called your name? What were you doing? Being in ministry, this is a question I get a lot; and one that often makes me laugh when I hear it. I think people tend to assume that because someone is in ministry, they have always been doing ministry things. Maybe they think that's the way it should be... or it has to be. That people in ministry sit around praying in church pews everyday of their lives until God calls them out to do something more. Well, this could be someone's experience, but it certainly is not mine. It was not Peter's or James' or John's or any of the Apostles. It's probably not yours. You see, God often calls us before we can even see the utility of our own lives. He calls us because He knows what we can be and just not what we are. He calls us to be servants when we are spies... or at least He did for me.
When I say spy, I am not speaking in metaphors or hyperbole... though maybe the term is sort of used loosely here, as I had not yet gotten my first gig. I thank God for that. I was, however, training to be an actually living breathing spy. We use nice terms in school: security officer, intelligence agent,,, they all meant the same thing spy. I loved the idea of it, but maybe that was because I had seen to many movies. I was convinced that I could do good in this world with only a minimal compromise: the truth. My heart was in the right place. I wanted to stop the bad guy. Who was the bad guy? Terrorists, dictators, crime rings, madmen with madder ideologies; I'm sure when I got there someone would tell me who they might be. So, I embarked on the learning journey of my life; never knowing that God's plans were just right around the corner.
It started at a fancy school with a major in International Affairs and I was told we would never make a difference, and even if we could, it would be a drop of water in the ocean. Then it changed to a less fancy but far greater school and a Bachelor's degree in Military History and I was told that stories from the past are good for academic research, but not for true understanding of anything at all. Next, it was a far fancier school than the rest with foreign accents and royal seals and a Master's in Intelligence and Security Studies and this, dear reader, is where I was told differences can be made if morals and integrity never mattered more than the job. The final step, that was to come, was a job at the CIA or with MI5 and then finally with the UN.
This is where I was when God called my name. I was learning to compromise myself who so adored morals and valued integrity above all else. I was learning to not care who was wronged along the way as long as the bad guy didn't get away... although I'm pretty sure that made us the bad guys instead. I was told that all of these things were necessary and good and somehow there was a part of me that wanted to believe that and keep the dream of saving the world alive. I had spent so much time on it after all.
It was Autumn and the leaves were becoming brittle on the trees, though there was still at least a bit of warmth in the air. I don't really remember why I started crying, but I know that there was some sort of discontent rolling around in my soul, something I had fought down for a while that finally bubbled up. I think God works on us in that way. He speaks to our hearts long before we realize it's Him and helps us to prepare for what He wants to say. And, when He speaks, well, you know it's Him.
That's what happened to me. God spoke through the tears that came as suddenly as lightning, as clear as day. He spoke to me when I was determined to see through my plans to be a spy even though all understanding of the why had been tore apart at the seams. I couldn't stand to not see it through. He spoke to me when the last thing I wanted to do was follow my former dream of being in ministry (which I had nearly twenty years earlier). He spoke to me when it was not a good time; I had dissertations and job applications and placement tests to think about. He called me when I had rejected Him, but He still hadn't rejected me.
You see, that's why I laugh when I am asked where I was and what I was doing when God called me to ministry. I find it hysterical that God took a spy that was not only hiding from the enemy but also herself, and turned her into a servant. I laugh because He saw something in me that I couldn't see. I laugh because my plans got turned on their head. I laugh because I know I'm not the only one. Some of the greatest stories of the Bible begin with God calling people who had other plans (see Exodus 3, 1 Samuel 16, Isaiah 6, John 1, Acts 9). And that's okay! We can make plans for our lives and we can work to see them through; but when God calls, we must also be ready to lay down all that we thought were and follow Him.