I have not talked about my call story here. Being in seminary and going through internship, I have had to tell my call story time and time again. For the most part, talking about my sense of call is relatively painless, because I have had some practice over the past four years.
I grew up in a small town about an hour south of Pittsburgh, PA. My parents are both Christians; my dad grew up Roman Catholic and my mom grew up Church of God (Winebrenner). After my parents were married, they settled on an American Baptist Church.
I was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, probably due in some way to effect of my grandmother. I was, however, re-baptized in the American Baptist Church when I was in 6th grade.
I was fairly active in my church’s youth group growing up. I went on all the retreats. I even served as the President during my senior year in high school.
College was when I was first exposed to the Lutheran church. Like most college students, I fell into the habit of sleeping in on Sunday, mostly because I had been out partying Saturday night. But that didn’t stop some of my friends from knocking on my door every Sunday morning. It got to the point where I told them I would go to church with them once, if they left me alone after that. It just so happened that I had a tiny crush on one of the girls that was in that group, so this gave me the perfect opportunity to get to know her better. I ended up going to church for the wrong reason.
After college, I moved back in with my parents and went back to the Baptist Church. Things seemed just as I remembered them. But things aren’t always as they seem. Lurking under the peaceful facade was a powderkeg of anger and hostility; the ugly side of humanity and religion. It just so happened that during the annual church meeting, I got to experience this ugly side first hand. I couldn’t believe what was going on. Well, at that point, I had had enough of church. I wanted nothing to do with this bunch of hypocrites. So, when I moved out of my parents house, I stopped going to church. I started my new job in St. Clairsville, OH, shortly after that church meeting and made my break with the church. Partially, this was because of my job (I was working two Sundays a month), but mostly this was because of the experience I went through.
My life couldn’t have been better, or so I thought. I had a good job, I was making bonuses at work, my boss was happy with me…what more could I have asked for. This went on for about two years. I was transferred from the St. Clairsville store to the store in Stubenville, OH. I wasn’t in Stubenville long. Through some very trying times, I became the “poster boy” of my district. So, I was offered a better store in Pittsburgh. Thinking of my career with the company, I took the job. That’s when things went down hill, fast.
After three years away from church I decided to that maybe I was wrong in my assessment of organized religion. I found a Lutheran church that I wanted to attend. On my first Sunday off, I awoke early, made coffee, and got ready for church. I sat down on my couch and promptly fell asleep. About the time that I needed to leave, I heard a voice say, “Get up and go.” It surprised me because I lived alone at the time. I will admit that the walls of my townhouse were pretty thin and don’t know if it was my neighbors or if it was divine intervention. I took the hint and went to church. This turned out to be a good thing as the church supported me during a time of hardship. It was here that I was gently nudged to consider and eventually go to seminary.
All this is to say, that sometimes I feel like the prophet Jonah and relate my call into the ministry with Jonah’s call. The connection has nothing to do with being a prophet and has everything to do with reluctance. Jonah was a reluctant prophet. When God called Jonah, Jonah went the other way as fast as he could. But, Jonah could not outrun God. Like Jonah, I tried to run. And just like Jonah, I could not outrun God. There have been times along the way I have said (sometimes in anger) to God, “You want me to go where?” And every time, I find out something new about myself and how my ministry will look.