Carl Frederick Buechner is an American writer and theologian who has won awards for his works. He’s an ordained Presbyterian minister and graduate of Princeton. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 and presented with many honorary degrees since he graduated after World War Two. In his book, Wishful Thinking, Buechner writes, “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
God calls His people to participate with Him in bringing His kingdom to men. Our role in that is revealed when God breathes His spirit into our talents, abilities, interests and personalities. Just as an employer would never hand his employee a task without equipping him to perform it, so much more, God would never give us a task without equipping us for it.
I believe there are two main avenues that the enemy uses to get us off track. Neither one is necessarily sinful; they often act as distractions from the purpose for which we’ve been called. These are the focal point of every attack and temptation, because if the enemy can get you to not fulfill your calling, you will live defeated and useless. Now for the big reveal, these two avenues are 1) distorting your talents, abilities, interests or personality or 2) bringing tension between the desires of your heart and God’s kingdom. I’ll give you some examples of what I mean.
This past month, I believe that I have been fulfilling a piece of my calling. I have never felt more alive or more excited as when I hear responses to the things I write. I love hearing about how the thoughts I’ve committed to paper (or virtual paper) have moved others, either to think or to tearful revelation. Yet it saddens me to say that at no other time in my life would this, these essays, have been possible. For a long time, I succumbed to the attack that said that I had nothing to offer and if I did, no one wanted to hear about it.
From the time I was a teenager, I walked around thinking that no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I thought no one was interested in me. I was an extreme introvert as much by choice as I was by personality. Yet, I could still have internal conversations, whether or not they were logical or cohesive didn’t matter, and I had/have a very active imagination. I have always been interested in writing and wrote my first short story on one of the earliest Macintosh’s when I was 7 years old. At ten, I started writing a mystery series that reached 120 pages. All during college, I wrote an epic novel, at first with the help of my cousin and then later on my own. I finished a first draft of it a year and a half ago and it was almost 450 pages long.
I graduated high school not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, much less what God wanted to do with it. I enjoyed strategy, history and writing and talking about it. I set out to be a teacher without really asking for counsel about it from anyone, least of all my God. I discovered I liked teaching, just not school, and graduated with a history degree three years ago after 12 semesters and two failed attempts to be accepted into the Teachers College at UNL.
At the same time, most of my life was internal and private. I dwelt long in silent thought, until thought spun out of control. I lost focus and couldn’t concentrate; even the mirage of my control was uncontrolled. I called it being restless or bored out of my mind, but I had just simply lost control of it, of everything. One of the strengths of my personality, my sharp, provoking mind and imagination, had become my weakness, turning against me, sometimes to my own physical harm. In a word, my personality was distorted and it had convinced me that something was permanently wrong with me. I seriously thought I was going insane except for the knowledge that insanity is not self-cognizant. Believing one lie born out of a series of misunderstandings almost destroyed me, literally.
Then, I discovered something. Until we realize that apart from God, we can do nothing, we will think that somehow we can do all things in our own strength. That is the root obstacle to a complete surrender to God and victory, because we, I, had bought the lie that said that we could do it, that we had to do it alone. We can’t, but God can, will, and does. Until we surrender and are truly in God, we won’t reap the victory. God is victorious, always, and until we are in that victorious God through complete surrender, we will not see victory in our lives. It is not that we do anything but God works in us that victory. A verse that caught me at the right time was 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, which says “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
This second avenue, bringing tension between the desires of your heart and the Kingdom of God, is all about a crisis of belief. Do you believe that God has what’s best for you at heart? Do you believe Matthew 6:33 when it says “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well”? The example of what I mean is me again, which makes the rest of this monologue very difficult for me to write.
For over a decade, it’s been my desire to get married and start a family. It just hasn’t been in the cards, I suppose, probably in large part because of the above struggle. Frankly, this desire makes weddings and family gatherings difficult for me. With this, as with other things, it would be tempting to pursue this wholeheartedly to the exclusion of everything else, including God. In this desire at least, the pursuit can easily lead to very sinful acts. Sin, we all know, separates us from God; it causes us to want to hide from Him. If we are hiding from God, we are also not fulfilling that calling. I know firsthand that not knowing your calling or purpose is very damaging, just as not acting on that purpose leaves you lost, directionless and wandering.
For the past three weeks I’ve laid out a discussion about who God is, what He’s like, what His motives toward us are. In this as with everything, it boils down to the question: do you believe Him and will you trust Him with this? My response was like the father of the boy with an unclean spirit from Mark 9:24. “I believe, help my unbelief.” I’m not saying that I don’t still struggle with my desire or that I don’t want it anymore, but rather that I have made the choice that my desire will not become a place of contention between me and fulfilling my part in advancing God’s kingdom. And victory comes when I bow before the Victor and put my hand on His thigh, submitting to Him, knowing full well that I can’t do it on my own.
“In the Word is the cure.”