As a seminary student nearing graduation I’ve been asked hundreds of times in recent years, what do you want to do with your degree?
And usually right after I get asked that the follow up question is, where do you want to serve?
It’s a bit of a weird question, because it assumes we have a choice in the matter. Like we get to choose our own calling or something. That would be nice.
I typically answer it by listing all the places I could never live.
- Not the Midwest. Done that before. Too much humidity. My wife would hate the winters.
- Not LA. Too crowded. Too expensive. Too much sunshine (I sound like a true Oregonian there).
- Not Salem. Too small. I grew up there. Lots of bad memories. Great place to call home, not where I want to go back to though.
- Not Hawaii. Too expensive. Too isolated.
You might call me picky. I just call myself self-aware. I know where God would regret sending me because I could never be happy. I would imagine you’ve created a similar list in your mind.
Everyone has their list of where they simply will not move, even pastors.
But what happens when God calls you to where you don’t want to go? What happens when He is leading you to the one place you never wanted to live?
After living the previous 5.5 years in Portland, a place I thought God would leave me for a long, long time, I’m now in Salem, a place that I refused to go back to. It’s not that God doesn’t care if we’ve made a list about where we’ll never go, but He sees beyond it, to our hearts, knowing He’s trying to shape us to care less about the list. Tell God you don’t want to go to the desert and I imagine you will likely find yourself there within 5 years.
I talked with a pastor a few weeks back who mentioned several young guys he used to work with who were now serving in the one area they said they would never live.
It seems a common thread in my life is to declare the things I never want to do, and then I ultimately end up doing them.
None of us is much different than Jonah. God asked Jonah to go to one of those places he had in his list. And Jonah went the other direction. Like the complete opposite direction. Clearly his own way of telling God, “hey you forgot about my list of places I never want to go to.”
But we’re human and we’re each drawn to different people and places for different reasons. I don’t think God looks down on us for this. Instead, God slowly gets us to see beyond ourselves, to a life where serving Him is the ultimate calling, and the place matters little in that calling.
Go ahead and write your list. Declare to God and the world all the things you never want to do and don’t feel called to do.
Just know as you write the list, you serve a God who has seemingly impossible things He wants to accomplish through you. He knows you’re human. You have preferences, strengths, weaknesses.
Even still, God wants you to serve with open hands, seeking adventure, pouring yourself into the work He has set before you.
Oh and He loves to ignore your list.
(Photo credit: Riana Van Staden)