The Holy Spirit does not give me an overwhelming sense of my calling. This moment is better than some, but it usually depends on the day hour that you ask me. “Michael, how do you know you have been called by God to do what you are doing?” “Michael, how do you know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing?”
Many times it depends on the place or my surroundings. When I am at my father’s house (i.e. “home”), I feel the least like a “man of God” who is called to preach the word. The designation “pastor” causes me to cringe and blush at these times. I suppose that it is because I am around people who know me best. They know the real me. They have seen me at my worst. They have seen what I can do. When I lived in Frisco, Texas, pastoring at Stonebriar Community Church, I used to say that my ordination was removed the moment I crossed the Red River. When in Oklahoma, I became as timid and insecure as ever. When I am like this, don’t call on me to pray before a meal. Don’t call on me to preach a sermon. Don’t even ask me spiritual questions. Yes, I will oblige, but I will be completely out of character. I have gotten better since I have moved back to Oklahoma, but the consistent sense of my “calling” is still very relative.
Other times it is my life circumstances. Mood swings take me from one extreme to the other. When I am in a bad mood, tired, or irritable (did I say irritable), my confidence level goes way down. The “call” becomes valid only as I look to the past; the present militates against it. “Who do you think you are? If you are the teacher, what are you teaching them to do? Be like you? I have seen unbelievers who are more of a joy to be around then you! Where is that peace that passes understanding?” Sheesh, leave me alone.
I can’t compartmentalize the way I would like. Kristie and I have a lot of ups and downs. Let’s put it this way: we are not ready to do any marriage conferences…don’t ask! When our marriage is not going so well, it is a tremendous burden on me in every way. Specifically though, with regard to my calling, I feel the least called when the closest relationship that I have is falling flat on its face. Oh that I would just be able to separate the two—my calling and my marriage. But if I did, I feel as if I would call the game due to forfeit. I am glad I can’t compartmentalize. I hate that I can’t compartmentalize.
When ministry itself seems to smell of artificial additives. I have seen ministries that seem to be run completely in the flesh and somehow “make it.” This terrifies me. Every once in a while, some smoke clears for me. Whether it be a bad night of teaching, a realization that I was wrong about something I before believed and taught with such conviction, feelings of inferiority toward those with whom I am in disagreement, or a realization of methodological manipulation. Once this smoke clears all that is left is a sudden realization that I am a charlatan. Additives of arrogance and pride of calling taste of the bitterness of self-elevation. The pulpit that God gave me becomes the pulpit I built. All I can hope for at this point is that the clearing was no clearing at all. All I can hope is that there is actually smoke being let in, not smoke being let out. But it is hard to tell the difference.
You don’t know how many times I have put my resume out in my mind. I have contemplated for years giving it all up. This is nothing new. Today’s confession of inadequacy is nothing more than a public surfacing of my perpetual inner contemplations and struggles. I am no closer or further from confidence than the day I stepped out of seminary.
You ask me: “Michael, how do you know that you are called to this type of ministry? How are you so certain that you are called to teach and preach to God’s people in such a way?”
I am not certain. I don’t know. The only thing that I can say to myself is what I would say to others in my circumstance: God is sovereign and he is gracious. He is not wringing his hands or pulling out his hair wondering how I got ordained into ministry. As well, he is not waiting for me to be perfect before he can use me. I have to remember that. God has never used one perfect person outside of Christ. All others were miserable failures in more ways than one. Therefore, I carry on in timid, prayerful trepidation hoping that God will use me to teach his truth.