The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 10: Joy in Our Calling (1 of 3)
We don’t do this for the money. We do this because we love it. The rest will follow.
–Amanda M. Thrasher, author and publisher
For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.
–Deuteronomy 16:15b (NIV)
One cool November evening Mary and I invited Pastors Scott and Renee Crenshaw over to the house for grilled steaks. After we finished dinner and enjoyed our slices of homemade Granny Smith apple pie slathered with equally homemade vanilla ice cream, I asked Scott, Senior Pastor at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas, if he considered himself living out his calling. To me it was a rhetorical question; it was pretty obvious by the joy he exudes.
“I think so,” he responded, smiling and stroking his goatee. “I really do.” I nodded. You see, I’d been struggling mightily with my calling for years, not so much in figuring out what my calling was–I knew exactly what it was–but with stepping out and answering that calling with a trust in God deep enough to pull the ejection handle on my tech job and parachute into a new career in writing. I truly wanted to live out Goethe’s imperative, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.” I’d only been at this writing thing fulltime for three months when I asked Scott the question. The man obviously loves his job, and his spot-on sermons, his animated delivery, and his love for the flock he pastors reflect the passion, love, and joy he has in his calling.
“I was duck hunting one time,” he told me. “It was freezing cold, I mean, it was miserable! We got out there in the boat and we turned the heaters on and we’re waiting, and we got some poor dog sitting on the floor of the boat waiting to dive into the water. And so we’re sitting there, and all throughout the morning, in the freezing cold, the water almost turned to ice, I’m hearing this sound, this thump-thump-thump-thump-thump, and I’m thinking ‘There must be an oil pump or something somewhere around here.’ Finally I realized it was that dog. His tail was thumping. What was he excited about? He was excited about the moment when the guy goes ‘Cut ‘im!’ and the dog dives out into that freezing cold water. But that’s what he’s made for.” The Pastor laughed.
“And so at the end of the day I’m petting the dog and he’s living life, and I noticed his tail was literally bloody. And the first thought that came to my mind was ‘God, that’s how I want to be.’ I call it bloody-tail passion. I said, ‘I want to live in that.’”
I want to live in that . . . . Who doesn’t?! I want to be so caught up in fulfilling God’s will for me that I sit in the bottom of the boat, tail thumping, just waiting to explode with a bark of delight to scatter the ducks of joy all over Creation. But so many people seem to just exist, to merely move through life joylessly, cowering like a beat dog, or floating around like a piece of driftwood on life’s ebb and flow, either never knowing their calling, or knowing their calling but never pursuing it out of fear. And they seem unmotivated to do anything differently, like zombies going through the motions, dead but undead, losing body parts like hearts and souls along the way. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” philosopher George Santayana once said. Those who cannot remember the past of their passions, those who cannot remember the past of what moved them, those who cannot remember the past of what brought joy into their hearts, all stand condemned by their own false truths, a parade of fools led by that king of lies: worldly security.
One of my deepest fears was getting to the end of life, looking back on not only what I’d accomplished but also the opportunities I’d passed up because of terror, and saying, “So what the hell was that all about?” Rockford E. Toews, in his essay “One Less Accountant,” wrote, “Rather than purposefully living, the vast majority of people’s lives are little more than a series of reactions to events and forces outside themselves. That’s not truly living. That’s just survival. Yet most people willingly engage in simple survival today in the belief that they will get their chance at actual living tomorrow. If they can earn enough money now surely they will be able to retire one day and enjoy life” (http://thoreau.eserver.org/oneless.html, retrieved 2/12/2014).
Jesus said as much in the Parable of the Rich Fool:
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
–Luke 12:16-21 NIV
Let me ask you something: Do you believe God wants you to actually enjoy the work He’s lined up for you to do instead of being miserable in the job you’ve lined up for yourself to do? Do you believe God has a plan for you, a gift of purpose tailor-made just for you, an avocation to live out with excitement, joy, and, dare I say, fun that will leave you breathless with wonder and smiling with contentment at the end of each day? Do you believe God doesn’t intend for us to spend all of our energy chasing a dollar, but instead He intends for us to spend all of our energy chasing Him?
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes