Thanks, but No Thanks
I had been picturing that day for years, but in recent months the picture was becoming more and more of a reality. In my mental daydream, I was sitting on a metal folding chair on a humid May day in a packed gymnasium. To the right of me, was my mom who held my hand almost tighter than I held her hand. She fought back tears knowing that her baby was about to officially spread her wings and leave the nest for real. To my left was my dad with a calm face holding in the emotions that swirled in his mind. I was nestled between them in a spring dress with a fast beating heart and a face of anticipation.
Call Day. The day I had been waiting for. The day that would change my life. The day that I would find out where I would begin my teaching ministry.
I was terrified.
Getting a call was an honor and I had been looking forward to it for years. I should have been so excited, but on most days I was a worried mess about it all. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I was excited imaging meeting my students, exploring a new city, and becoming part of a new church family, but there were also times when the uncertainty clouded my mind like a grey shadow. Besides the unknowns of where I was going, and what I would be teaching, the negative thoughts of, “You’re not good enough. There’s no way you can do it. You really think that you can handle that honor that God is about to give you?” really pushed me over the edge. Thoughts of it would antagonize me on a daily basis. The uncertainty ate me alive like an unwanted parasite and there wasn’t much I could do about it, besides turn to God and say, “Thanks for the honor, but no thanks.”
And just like that I wanted to go and hide in a hole again.
Maybe you can relate. Your calling might look very different from mine, but no matter what your calling is, I am sure there are days that leave you wanting to scream into your pillow. Maybe for you, that God given honor looks like staying home with your babies, sitting at a desk in a cubicle, taking care of your aging parents, or just going to classes and doing homework. How often does the stage of life that God has put you in seem to antagonize you to the point of becoming a blanket burrito and hiding from the world?
Maybe you’re like me and you become fretful and worrisome about the honor God has given you or maybe you grumble about it or maybe you run away from it. How often can that honor feel like a burden to us? Timidly, we could all raise our hands admitting to having that feeling in any stage of life. If you’re starting to feel the guilt that makes you want to shrink to the size of an ant, don’t worry.
You aren’t alone.
Remember Moses. He got the honor of leading the Israelites out of Egypt! Was he excited for that special honor? No, not at all. Moses was busy living his quiet life as a shepherd, when he casually stumbled upon a bush that was on fire, yet it didn’t burn up. When God called him through the burning bush, he had every excuse under the earth to not follow his calling. Did God have an answer to every excuse? You bet he did. In the end, Moses left his quiet life of herding sheep to be the rebel leader and spokesperson for God.
Sarah laughed at God when he gave her the news of her calling. She didn’t believe that at her ripe old age of 90, God could give her the honor or title of mother. Thoughts of disbelief couldn’t stop God and nine months later she would hold that promised son. I’m sure she laughed a whole different sort of laugh as her son smiled at her for the first time.
Jonah literally ran away from the job that God had given him to do. He refused that honor and made it very clear that he wanted nothing to do with it. What happened to him? Well, he did what God wanted him to do anyway… after spending three days in the belly of large fish.
Are you a Moses? Do excuses roll off your tongue with the slight hope that maybe God will pass the honor to someone else? When God places the job he wants you to do, does he hear excuses and complaints instead of praises?
Are you a Sarah? In disbelief, do you rely on logic and reason rather than lean on the promises of God? Do you fall apart when things are not going according to your plan or maybe you try taking things into your own hands instead of just waiting for God?
Are you a Jonah? Do you hear what God is sending you to do and then say, “Thanks… but no thanks”? Do you run from God and the duty that he gave you? Do you do your calling with a content heart or are you more often than not grumpy and unwilling?
I’ve got some news for you, we all have streaks of Moses, Sarah, and Jonah in us. That unwilling, worried, rebellious, part of our heart that looks at God and says, “Thanks, but no thanks.'' When we stare at the work that God has placed in front of us, our faces twist into looks of worry, discontent, and maybe in avoidance as our eyes dart for a way out.
There is hope, my friends. The stories of Moses, Sarah, and Jonah don’t end with them turning away from their honor. Moses still led the Isrealites out of Egypt. Sarah still bore a son that was part of the line of the Savior. Jonah still went to Ninivah to preach to the people who needed to hear law and gospel. God’s plans always prevail, no matter our attitudes.
Even as I write this, I don’t know where God is going to send me. In these days of waiting, I see a little Moses, Jonah, and Sarah in me. This time in my life I am learning that in the uncertainty of life, God is my only certainty. As hard as the waiting is right now, and as heavy as my worries are in my life, I find comfort that God’s plan prevails.
So if you are staring at the end of semester homework mountain that is piling up, changing a blowout diaper for the third time today, driving the kids to soccer practice, staring at the walls of a cubicle, emptying the dishwasher, watching your children graduate, or anything else that God has given you the honor of doing, don’t forget that this stage in life serves of heavenly purpose. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, every moment, no matter how unappealing, is an honor and blessing given by God. Soak up those moments and watch for those mundane, stressful, and unappealing tasks to turn into kingdom work.