What have I done? (Calling revisited)

By Curt Alan, Pastor of Missions, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, NC, and…Hilary’s husband

Last month, I wrote about calling – making the case for the fact that one’s calling is crystal clear in Scripture: follow Jesus. Of course, when following Jesus leads us to make radical changes and to uncomfortable places in the world (or our even own neighborhood), it isn’t unusual to have experience second thoughts.

In my current role, as I help prepare, send out, and support men and women going to the nations, I see it all the time – usually it hits a few months before they depart and again a few months after they arrive overseas. “Wait. Am I doing the right thing? What am I doing? This is a whole lot harder than I expected.”

Not surprisingly, I experienced many of the same emotions back in 2006, when our family began following Jesus on a path that took us to places we never imagined. As I disciple others, I share with them my own experience which is, in part, documented in a blog entry I wrote nearly six years ago:

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It is amazing to think how much time has now passed since we left our home culture. We’ve been in this country nearly 2 months…easily the longest any of us have been away from our home. Over the last several weeks, each of us has begun to progress through the classic stages of what is known as culture shock. At the beginning, all that was new and different was fun. In time, those differences magnified and the reality hit that there was far more that was unfamiliar than familiar.

Next came urges to retreat…then anger. The next phase is tolerance and “fitting in.” Each day seems to bring us closer to that end. Glimpses of it abound – we just have to look for them.

I have to admit that I still have my moments. Moments when I begin to ask the big question over and over – why? Why does it have to be so hard sometimes? Why did I move my family so far away from what they’ve known? Why did I trade a comfortable life for one seemingly filled with challenges? The answer, of course, remains the same as it always has. Why? Because I was called to follow Jesus. Because He led our family here.

Since we’ve been here, we’ve been under regular attack. Sickness, discouragement, loneliness, anxiety, and frustration are effective tools that satan uses to distract anyone following a call to follow Jesus. With this kind of role, we have to expect more of the same. There are strongholds here that won’t be relinquished without a fight.

Back nearly a year ago, when we were going through the process to decide whether or not we would follow the path that would lead back here, I went through many a sleepless night. How could I follow this path – the one that would take all of us so far away from the comfortable life we had constructed and bring us to such a different place? Jesus couldn’t possibly want this for me and my family…

Late one evening I was flying back from the west coast, returning from a business trip that hadn’t gone well at all. My head was spinning and my stomach was churning as I lead a double life…maintaining a career that I had so carefully constructed while pursuing a process that would take us far away from it.

As I sat in the seat headed home on the darkened plane, I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship.” I came upon some comments that he wrote as a commentary on Matthew 7: 13-14 from the sermon on the mount (“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”)

Since that evening, I’ve returned to those words many times – especially when my mind pulls in the direction of “why?”.

Bonhoeffer wrote:

But if we behold going on before step by step, we shall not go astray. But if we worry about the dangers that beset us, if we gaze at the road instead of at Him who goes before, we are already straying from the path. For He is himself the way, the narrow way and the straight gate. He, and He alone, is our journey’s end.

When we know that, we are able to proceed along the narrow way through the straight gate of the cross, and on to eternal life, and the very narrowness of the road will increase our certainty. The way which the Son of trod on earth, and the way which we too must tread as citizens of two worlds on the razor edge between this world and the kingdom of heaven, could hardly be a broad way.

The narrow way is bound to be right.

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