Beyond Figuring Out

[Part 3 in Liz’s story…]

Elucidating the pieces to my calling left me feeling like someone had dumped three or four puzzles together, shaken the box, and removed pieces, leaving 500 unrelated pieces with no picture to guide me. I puzzled over the infinite combinations and variations until, like the Grinch, my “puzzler was sore.”

Or, on more discouraging days, I resonated with the title character in the children’s book All Wrong, Mrs. Bear, who was unhappy because she believed that God had made her all wrong. I just didn’t quite fit in any clear categories that offered remuneration: inner city secular mental health counseling centers, Christian social work agencies, fee-for-service biblical counseling centers, care team for overseas workers, or overseas trauma work.

Why couldn’t I be satisfied in one of the occupational groupings? Was I seeking satisfaction in a particular job and place of ministry, forgetting that all work is subject to vanity and frustration? Was I seeking solace for unanswered prayers in finding some all-encompassing vocation that trumped my desires for marriage and family? Was I seeking the approval of my most recent boyfriend, who had helped me clarify and verbalize my desires for holistic, inner city ministry? Was I hoping to bribe God into giving me the kind of life I wanted through my overtures of sacrifice? Was I seeking some achievement or compelling passion to boast in? Or, since our hearts are always a mixed bag of godly, ungodly, and inordinate desires, where was I seeking these things in ways that undermined the gospel?

The answer to all the “Was I” questions was “Yes,” at various points and to differing degrees. Disappointments, silence, and ongoing sorrow over the next eight months revealed more and more of my leaky cisterns that could never hold my hope or give fresh grace for daily needs.

Fresh grace for daily needs, while walking down a path of constant confusion and perplexity, became a frequent prayer. I often returned to this quote from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening that summarized my daily call:

“Let me not strive to understand the infinite, but spend my strength in love.”

The pieces to my calling seemed infinite. The labyrinth depths of my heart plummeted beyond my sight. Financial and logistical calculations while working 7 part-time jobs proved to be quite complex. My life was beyond figuring out.

Yet I was still called by God to spend my strength, to pour out my life in love for my family, housemates, friends, coworkers, and counselees. To spend and be spent, while waiting for God to act, continually revealed the paucity of my own resources and my absolute dependence on God for fresh mercies, including forgiveness for all the ways I brought dishonor to his name through my anxious unbelief and self-protective figuring-out.

Understanding the infinite—impossible. Spending our strength in love—difficult, but not impossible, given the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in us.


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