I love this scripture in the Bible--
". . . . for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29).
I like to let it wash all over me, to flow through my insides and wash clean the places of doubt. I hear the immense Mercy in those words. And Mercy is a word I have sat with a bit this week. It is where I want to live, and it is what I want to extend because God has drenched my life in it.
I had been chatting with some of the ladies I work with, a couple of whom have children at the very beginnings of their college journeys. One was explaining how excited her daughter was to discover a college with a major in the field she is interested in. It is a bit of a rare find, and it is great that the school is close by. As we talked I couldn't help pondering my own educational and vocational journey.
The past year I have made peace with the place I am. It is not where I thought I would land twenty some odd years ago. But it is a good place, filled with much joy and deep meaning. Everyday I come away with a sense that I am living my life purpose, just in a completely different form than I anticipated.
When I was still in college I began to sense God calling me into ministry. So I finished up my undergraduate degree and packed myself off to seminary. Tim and I married; I accepted my first ministry position as an associate pastor in a large church in Florida. It was a bit like Abraham going off to a far and distant country not knowing his destination. I had no idea how this ministry direction could change so quickly.
What I thought would be a carefully designed path became a rollercoaster ride. I began to discover that even though I certainly have the gifts and graces for ministry, I don't have the temperament that easily orders the life of a congregation. So when I should have received my ordination as an Elder, and perhaps an appointment to my own church, I was instead working through a deferral process trying to figure out what shape ministry was supposed to take in my life. I found relief and release as a Deacon, someone called to specialized ministry within the church who specifically connects the world to the church and the church to the world.
And from Florida Tim and I packed up and followed God to a new destination--home to Kentucky and campus ministry.
Campus ministry was great and awesome for nine years. Everyday I would wake up loving my work. During this time Tim and I added three more Wilson men to our family. I soon discovered raising three boys is a full-time job on its own, and God once again uprooted me to a place where I could give my whole heart to being the wife and mother my family needed me to be and God was calling me to be.
So He plopped me down in the middle of pre-school ministry.
The humor of it all is that my parents secretly thought I didn't like kids because it took Tim and I so long to have them. I didn't spend hardly any time around small children growing up. Honestly the best preparation for being a preschool teacher was the nine years I spent on campus.
I am in my fifth year of serving Jesus by serving the smallest of the small. It is a joy-filled place full of adventure. I can never predict what my day will be like each morning: I am never bored, and I'm often surprised by joy and the kind of laughter that makes my face hurt.
The shape of this ministry is so different than what I anticipated ministry would look like as a twenty year old. However those same gifts and graces that were growing in me as a young associate pastor are alive and strong now. Tim and I were having an honest heart to heart a couple of weeks ago. He told me that I keep introducing myself as a preschool teacher, and I'm not. I'm still very much the woman God has called into ministry and has intentionally placed in a preschool to serve as His minister. I am still a pastor at heart. It's just that my congregants are about three feet shorter than the ones I used to serve. I am still preaching, I am still leading worship, I am still teaching the timeless truths of God's Word. And I am still a shepherd to the most vulnerable in God's flock.
Who knows how long this part of the journey will last. God is always upending things and moving us to new places and spaces, teaching us new ways of living in to the call on our lives. But no matter where I go, I take the song God sings over me and through me with me. It is the same kind of song I have been singing from the beginning, only now I have guitar that He is teaching me to play so I can give it music too.
Lately I have been wanting a guitar strap. Mostly because I'm getting better at playing, and I really want to play for the kids when I do chapel at the preschool. Since I'm a crafty girl, I kind of set my heart on making my own. As I lay awake one night thinking of how I could make that happen, God reminded me of the Elder's stole that had been a gift when I served my first church. It is a tapestry filled with the faces of children from all over the world, "red and yellow black and white," each one precious in His sight. Just like an old stole can become a new guitar strap, the heart of this ministry remains the same, even when its shape changes. And one more thing. God also showed me that the shape of ministry now was always a part of His original design. I didn't miss it or mess it up. It was always in His heart for me.
So this is Mercy--that God would never forget or repent of the call He places on our lives. He never turns His back on us or His hopes for us. We may get side-tracked or side-lined, but God never changes His mind about us. And no matter at what point we remember who He called us to be, it's never too late to accept His invitation to live the life we were created for. It is never too late to say yes to God's call; just like it's never too late to start learning how to use those gifts He has entrusted us with. For all those who have given up and given in (for all kinds of reasons, some of which may not have been our own), it's time to get back what we let go of.