“Umm…yeah…I guess you can put it that way.”
“Moving where? The slums? Are you…sure about that?”
“Doing what? Is that safe? What about your family?"
“Have you really thought about what you are getting in to?”
“Wow, I could never do that.”
“Leaving America? Why would you do that?”
Why? Because Jesus is worth….everything. That is usually my internal answer to these questions. But, reasonably asked: how does one get to the point of making these types of life decisions? It’s complicated, and a journey, and full of success and failure, ups and downs, fears and confidence…but it all boils down to this: First, it is God…Second, it’s His Spirit prompting me…and third, it’s His Son I follow. So that initial question of, “how do you get to that point?” then gets turned around on its head and becomes: “how could I do any different?” And it feels a lot less like sacrifice, and a lot more like what He intended.
Part I: The Foundation of the Call, My Conversion (long after I became a Christian).
“But then you start to think there must be more to Christianity, more than just laying your life and sins at the foot of the cross. I came to realize that preachers were telling me to lay my life at the foot of the cross and weren't giving me anything to pick up.”
Shane Claiborne, in the opening chapter of his best-selling book, Irresistible Revolution, later goes on to describe his internal ache to figure out what it meant to live as a Christian after he became one. He was told over and over again what not to do, but found little direction on what to do. I couldn’t agree more.
Claiborne goes on to describe his conversion and early Christian life like this, which ironically is very close to my experience:
“The more I read the gospel, the more it messed me up, turning everything I believed in, valued, and hoped for upside-down. I am still recovering from my conversion. I know it's hard to imagine, but in high school….I was in the in-crowd, popular, ready to make lots of money and buy lots of stuff, on the upward track to success. I had been planning to go to med school. Like a lot of folks, I wanted to find a job where I could do as little work as possible for as much money as possible. I figured anesthesiology would work, just put folks to sleep with a little happy gas and let others do the dirty work. Then I could buy lots of stuff I didn't need. Mmm ... the American dream.
But as I pursued that dream of upward mobility preparing for college, things just didn't fit together. As I read Scriptures about how the last will be first, I started wondering why I was working so hard to be first. And I couldn't help but hope that there was something more to life than pop Christianity. I had no idea what I should do. I thought about leaving everything to follow Jesus, like the apostles, and hitting the road with nothing but my sandals and a staff, but I wasn't sure where to pick up a staff.
There were plenty of folks talking about the gospel and writing books about it, but as far as I could tell, living out the gospel had yet to be tried in recent days.”
As Mark Twain so eloquently stated, “"It's not the parts of the Bible I don't understand that scare me, but the parts I do understand." And I am beginning to understand what that means…and so does Shane and countless others around the world….that self-sacrifice, self-denial, love for other, suffering, grace, mercy, and compassion are the parts of the Bible I do understand that scare me. And because I do understand them, they are changing the trajectory of my entire existence because I refuse to be scared by them anymore.
As someone once said: “You have not lived until you’ve found something worth dying for.” Indeed, that is the foundation of my call.