Posted by: Dan | September 28, 2004

On Calling(s)

When I was young, around thirteen years old, I remember I started doing a lot of thinking about vocation and what to do with my life.

In the midst of all that I had a dream.

In the dream I was walking beside a river and Jesus was walking on the other side. I remember asking him, “What should I do with my life?” and he stopped and rested his hand on the tree beside him (funny how I remember his smallest movements yet can’t recall anything about the way he looked). A picture formed before me of a gathering of all sorts of wild animals all clustered together: giraffes, hippos, rhinos, lions, zebras. Then I woke up.

At the time I thought that was a “call” to go into missions in Africa. So I ended up attending a Bible college, and now, as I continue my education, I am doing a Master’s in Christian Studies.

The thing is my sense of vocation has shifted.

As I have journeyed with people who are suffering, as I have journeyed with the abandoned and oppressed, my passion for journeying with those who are suffering, for not only working front-line but for addressing systemic issues has increased. So then I started thinking maybe I was called to work with the poor in Africa. But the more I have become aware of the root of problems the more I have become convinced that the source of suffering in the third world is found in the first world. In fact, I have become increasingly convinced that things will start to radically change when comfortable middle-class Christians in North America begin to understand what it really means to follow Jesus. And so, without abandoning a journey of intimate love with those who are suffering, I am increasingly searching for a way in which to transform middle-class Christians.

But every now and again I would wonder about this dream and the call I thought I had. I wondered if I was drifting away from a road God had called me to travel. In the midst of this I read a book by a Christian philosopher attacking the idea of using the Bible as a defense for foundationalism. He argues that it may be possible that God sometimes tells us things that are less than true in order to point us in the right direction – much like parents over-simplify things to their children, in order to guard and guide them. I started wondering if my original interpretation of the dream was simply intended to get me to pursue the education I chose. Perhaps it had another meaning altogether.

And that’s when I remembered Peter’s dream in “Acts”. Peter, too, had a dream full of animals. The purpose of it was to reveal to Peter that the Gospel was not only for the Jews but also for all the people of the earth. A voice says to him, “What God has considered clean, let no man consider unclean.” I think that a parallel is there. Perhaps my dream wasn’t so much a call to missions as it was a call to journey with those that society and the church have considered unclean and cast out. It is a call to go to the rejected with the good news that, behold, God can make all things new.

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