Now, it's not like I had never heard of being called before. I had often said, "I'm called to missions." But down at the root of it, it was nothing more than a regurgitation of the proper-sounding phrasing. Deep below all the layers of Christianese, I had to admit that I had practically called myself to missions. It was what I wanted to do, and while I don't doubt the Lord's role in giving me a heart for missions, I took the bit in my teeth and ran off without consulting God, assuming that he MUST accept that as my life calling. Wasn't that rare? Wasn't that admirable? Didn't he have few enough people signing up for the foreign field?
It was verses like Galatians 1:15-16 that pulled me up short.
But when it pleased God,
who separated me from my mother's womb,
and called me by his grace,
to reveal his Son in me,
that I might preach him among the heathen;
immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.
I thought, "Wow, God will do this WHEN IT PLEASES HIM." It was a paradigm-shifting thought, one that also revealed how wrong my view of God had been. I had been treating him like my tool--I was using His blessing to get where I hoped to go--when all along I was really supposed to be His tool, one that He could pick up and use or lay aside, at His pleasure.
When Ananias came to Paul, he said to him, "The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard" (Acts 22:14-15). Paul later said that Christ "counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry" (1 Tim 1:12). He further stated, "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts" (1 Th 2:4).
God said to Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jer. 1:5)
The Holy Ghost said to the early church, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." (Acts 13:2)
But it was Isaiah's words that hit me the hardest and the most personally. "Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; and said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. [...] And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth." (Is. 49:1-3, 5-6)
God called me. He showed me that He had a purpose for me. And He even showed me what that purpose was. It was something so simple, so plain-sounding when you put it into words, so elementary. But at the same time, it was so profound, and struck so sharply at the root of who I was, and where I was, that it took it a year to sink in and become a part of my life.
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