[Welcome to a new author! I asked Liz M to write her story of being faithful to God’s calling, expecting a short blurb or two. What she wrote is a compelling narrative that isn’t even finished yet! I’m still on the edge of my seat waiting for the ending, but for now, here is part 1. We’ll be introducing them in weekly segments, as they are a fresh and inspiring contrast to my dour yammering about gunshots and cynicsm. Please consider contributing your own story, no matter how humble or simple! Send an e-mail to admin(at)theurbanresident.com] – David C
In the journey of life, God often leads us to vistas from which we can survey and story our wanderings and wonderings. As we arrive at our temporary resting point, the past coheres into a dominant narrative, with familiar subthemes. The historians of our lives, we construct and unearth the meaning and significance in events, often in community with the voices that ring in our ears.
Imagine, for instance, that one of us recognizes and leaves an abusive relationship. Is this proof of our inability to create healthy relational bonds, our strength and courage in making hard decisions, God’s rescuing and protecting love, our deserving someone better, God’s failure to protect us from abuse and our need to take matters into our own hands, God’s fickleness in giving good gifts, our fate to continue a victimization cycle, our parents’ failures in their own marriages, or something else? We are constantly sifting data through the filter of our presuppositions and crafting the narrative out of which we live.
Yet much of our lives as Christians transpire in the valleys between these vistas, where wilderness wanderings, feelings of perplexity, darkness, and silence seem to be the rule. In these valleys of vision, we see him who is invisible and walk by faith. We taste with Paul the experience of being perplexed, but not in despair. We recognize our human limitations and extol God’s wise, powerful, sovereign love. We cry out in our sorrow, frustration, and helplessness. We find grace sufficient for each moment.
In the middle of these valleys, we remember and recite God’s awesome works in the past, as they culminated in Christ’s obedient life, substitutionary death, powerful resurrection, and ascension to the place of highest honor and authority. We also recall his work in our own lives and, by faith, create a tentative narrative for what he is doing now in the midst of our confusion. This is where the mess of our lives meets the living God, and he slowly changes us.
This is where I am in my story—still hiking through the trackless desert with no guarantee of a particular destination. Over the years, I have listened to countless stories of ordinary Christians called by God to serve his kingdom purposes all over the world and wondered where God would call me. Over the past few years, various themes have developed: engaging in preventative, early intervention, and counseling care in an inner city, underserved, multicultural context as a member of a Christian health care community that seeks to incarnate Christ in word and in deed. I also love using expressive (art or play) therapy with children and adolescents, particularly those struggling with prior abuse, and mentoring healthcare students and young professionals in their callings to serve Christ here and abroad.
Will these strands be woven together to form one calling? I don’t know.
When Dave suggested that I blog about my sense of calling as a counselor to work as part of a healthcare team in an urban context, I asked him if it wouldn’t be better to wait until after I knew something more definite. When I reach the vista, I can rewrite my narrative, glossing over my creaturely anxieties and limitations in a few words and highlighting certain moments as signs of God’s providential guidance. Writing from a place of brokenness, messiness, and need is much harder, but I hope the resulting story will be more helpful to you as you seek to construct your own narratives of God’s work in your valley of vision.