I was having an email exchange with a friend on the other side of the planet, and he said something that startled me.
“Your book,” he said, “is as if the author was seeking his vocation.” The reference to vocation was to the main character in Dancing Priest – a young Anglican priest.
I pondered that statement. In fact, I’m still pondering it.
I started college in a pre-med curriculum. By the start of the second semester, facing untold numbers of hours of chemistry ahead, I knew I wasn’t going to survive in pre-med. So I spent time thinking about my future, and one of the things I considered – seriously considered – was the ministry.
This was surprising. I hadn’t previously considered it. I had been raised Lutheran (conservative Lutheran), but I had never fell a call to ministry. My faith was lukewarm at best. I could answer the basic questions with perfunctory answers (I has taken two years of catechism and had had to memorize a lot) but I can’t say I was really serious about what I believed. Had I been pressed hard, it would have been obvious that my faith – if I had it – was shallow.
So why did I consider the ministry?
I don’t know. I do know I was feeling some kind of pull. But it wasn’t strong, and I eventually decided upon another kind of priesthood, a self-proclaimed one: Journalism.
But the pull to faith remained, and slowly grew, although I can’t say my general behavior would have struck anyone as being characterized by faith. More like the opposite.
“We pursue God,” writes A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God, “because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit…The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand.”
By the time I reached my senior year, events and circumstances led to more than a pull; in fact, I could say that I slammed into God. Hard.
I could look back from that moment and see the path, but I couldn’t see that I was on that path until I had reached the first stopping point. What I think I understood instinctively was that it was all “over” once I became a Christian; far from it. I understood that the “moment” was like a wedding – only the beginning, one certainly to celebrate, but all the hard work lay ahead.
Again from Tozer: “Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ ( a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls.” There was some momentary euphoria, but I knew that the journey had only begun.
So when my friend made his statement, I remembered that path I was on 40 years ago. His words contained some insightful truth, but I don’t believe I was meant to be a minister.
But I was meant to be in ministry. We all are.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re embarking upon a discussion of A.W. Tozer’s 1948 classic The Pursuit of God. To see more posts on Chapter 1, “Following Hard After God,” please visit Sarah Salter at Living Between the Lines.