Called.

Called.

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honour.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
 the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

 Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!’

Psalm 8:3-9

 

‘The glory of God is a
person fully alive!’
Irenaeus

 

The thing is, underneath it all, so often we’re not sure. Not sure who we are, not sure that we’re valuable, not sure where to place our feet in all this whirling world.  Questions haunt the corridors of our minds, the edges of our identities, pouncing on us from the shadows when we find ourselves alone with our thoughts. Who are we? What does it all mean? Are we loved? Are we significant? It can feel like a desert some days, this lonely plod through the haze of our souls. It can feel like a forever stretching ever widening horizon, this thrumming drumming drone of Human identity, like a stone in our shoe, scraping, like sand in our sandals, scratching, distracting our hearts and minds. 

We push the whispering wonderings away, down, down into the abyss of our subconscious souls. Out of sight, out of mind. We pretend it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Chanting this mantra we replace wondering with wandering. Wandering through shopping centres, TV shows and video games, wandering on Facebook, YouTube or Ebay.  Avoiding, ignoring, while subconsciously all the while searching, scanning the horizon for the meaning that eludes us. 

Because underneath it all, somewhere deep within, we know we are more, more than simply spectators, more than consumers, more than mere cogs in the machines of big business. We know there is a ‘why’ somewhere, a meaning and a purpose worthy of our existence, a reason for being. Like an eternity in our hearts which we have never understood, this bewildering wilderness of the human soul stretches on, these testing questions questioning everything, like a soul on trial, sifting for answers, answers we search for, answers we long for. Answers once lost in a garden long ago.

Life as a human being can be bewildering at the best of times, this is not because there is something wrong with us, but because there is something right with us. Existential emptiness and careless idleness doesn’t sit right with us because it isn’t right for us. Never has been. Never will be.

God made that clear, right from the very beginning.

Contemplation

So my daughter one day, she did this thing that I hold in my heart all these years later,  and still it spills a smile across my face even now. It happened on the day I had sent her eight year old self outside to pick flowers for our table before a guest arrived. Solemnly she had slipped outside, scissors in hand, on her important mission. The task was soon accomplished, the vase was filled and I in my busyness noticed nothing awry.

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It was later that night we noticed something missing, missing from the wisps around her small freckled face. Where once wound wisps of chestnut and gold, now hung a tufted clump, an obvious absence of hair. Shyly she confessed. When she had gone out to accomplish her task of filling the vase that afternoon she had felt so sorry about taking from the flowers that she wanted to give them something in return. So she gave them part of herself, her hair, and in some ways her vanity too. So a small fistful of eight year old chestnut-gold hair now lies at the foot of the flower bushes in our garden and a warm memory of a child’s yearning to care for her world lies at the foot of my memory and the corners of my smile. And my daughter for the next few months walked around with a tuft of short hair in front, and still walks around today with a concern for the world all around her.

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On one level, my daughters actions were strange, quirky even, in a gorgeous child-like kind of way. On another though, they reveal a heart-longing which was leaning in the right direction, the direction of uninhibited care, responsibility and love for the world around her. She was being human. She was living out a calling that she probably couldn’t even name.  A calling, planted deep, like a seed within her heart.  A calling like a seed planted in all of us, but pushed away by life in the wrenching rat race. A calling that big business often fails to see, and globalised economic bottom lines are mindlessly blind to. A calling like an eternity in our human hearts which we have never understood.

Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’ Genesis 1:26

At the beginning of all our beginnings we were anticipated, formed, fashioned and breathed into life by God and through Jesus (Genesis 2:7)(John 1:1-3) .

The first mention of us, in all of scripture is when God is naming us, like Him. We are dust, but we are more. Human beings are made from the dirt of this earth; like all other creatures, we share the same genetic code, the same chemicals, the same minerals. Our difference is not by degree, but by Breath. God breathed His own Breath, His own Spirit into us at the beginning of all things and we became different from every other creature on earth. We feel like we are made for more because we are made with more… more of God’s image, more of His breath, more of His likeness.

We are significant, not because we are stronger, larger or smarter than all other creatures on earth. We are significant because we have the God of the universe’s breath in our lungs, the Being who made the spinning stars imprint in our hearts. We are significant. God’s own image was pressed into us, His likeness lines the sinews of our hearts. We are bigger than time and space. God has placed eternity into our hearts and we have never understood this (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The only adequate answer to our humming, drumming, haunting, taunting ‘Who am I?’ identity questions is; ‘I am a child of God’. That’s it. That’s all.

I am a child of God. Say it. Hear it. Let it seep into your soul, like a song singing, like threads weaving, like springs restoring the sinews of your heart. You are loved. You are seen. You are chosen. You are treasured. You are significant. You are beautiful. You are a child of God. That’s all. That’s it. That’s who you are.

We humans strain and drain ourselves in our search for validation, purpose, and self worth. We so often think that we need to do important things, achieve big successes for our lives to count, to be significant. If only we could begin to comprehend (like a breath breathed out slow, like a learning to relax, like a learning to let go) that our true significance is not in what we achieve, in what we do, a legacy we leave, a job description describing us. Our true significance is in the unwavering, unfathomable fact that we are children of God. God made it clear in the beginning that our value is not in the function we serve, but the person we resemble. The whole creation story of Genesis one is constructed to build up to one anticipated point, a final crescendo, a central idea… us. We, the children of God.

We matter. To God. Because He made us to be like Him, His children. Because we are God’s children, made in His image, we are loved, and we are called. Our Father, this God is a God who calls, calls us each by name, calls us His children, calls us human and calls us into service in this world with Him.

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Our calling, our service with Him in this world is the natural outworking of our image-of-God-nature within. Because we are human, we have a unique calling, a gift to bring to this whole whirling world for the strengthening, developing and blessing of it all.

‘Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ Genesis 1:26

We are more because He is more, and the more that we are comes with more that we have. We have significance, we have a purpose and we have a partnership with God in the stewardship and completion of this world.

At the beginning of all our beginnings humans alone were given three gifts from God, a ‘so that’ , a ‘blessing’, and another gift that makes everything else make sense.

‘Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that…” Genesis 1:26

We alone on earth are given a purpose, a meaning, a mission. We have a reason for being. ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What am I here for?’ questions haunt us because they are yearnings born into us from the beginning of time. We know we are more and we know we’re for more. Planted deep within our beating heart is a divine identity and reason for being, and our hearts beat out this song, this song that joins us with threads of stewardship and care to all this waking world.

Our ‘so that’ crowns us as protectors and stewards over all creation, representing our  Creator-Father in Creation. This human vocation is woven into the fabric of our humanity. When we are most human, most fully living out the Imago Dei within us, we are living out this calling, living in this calling, living through this calling.

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We make a mistake if we think that because we are made in the image of God, we ourselves are the centre of this story and our desires and developments the main point of everything. This is God’s world, not ours. We steward it for Him and with Him. We answer to Him. He is the beating heart centre, He is the rightful King.  We are here to serve the world, causing it to flourish, for it’s sake, for our sake, and for the glory of God. Neglecting our calling is neglecting our own beating human heart, created in the image of our Father.

You cannot truly be a follower of Jesus and not care about the welfare of this world God has given us and all the beings in it (including human beings).  The Gospel is not just for human beings but for all creation (Mark 16:15) . Capitalism is not a theological mandate from God. Stewardship of the home that He gave us is. My eight year old daughter understood this and lived it, in the only way she knew how. She was faithful in doing the best she could, as she understood it, to care for the tiny patch of this planet that was within her reach.

But this world is a big place with many needs, needing attention many ‘callings’ calling out for work.  It can be exhausting and bewildering discerning which small patch we are called by God to serve.

God gave the first human beings the ‘so that..’ mandate for the development and care of this whole whirling world of wonder, but He doesn’t just ‘leave them to it’ expecting them to figure it out on their own. He gives human beings this mandate and then He gives them two more gifts to bring this mandate to life.

His second gift, is the empowering gift of a blessing. A blessing enabling human beings to fulfil their unique calling.

‘God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28

Words have a power we very often negate. The words we speak over one another often become the paths we walk, subconsciously, surely. God and then the Hebrew writers  understood the power of words.  Words in Hebrew culture have weight. The words of a blessing carry a weight that overflows and runs down the sides of the words which are spoken. A blessing has power and gives power like a wind in the sails and a current underneath a boat, they carry a person in the direction of the blessing. God’s words of blessing are full of power, em-powering the fulfilment of our human vocation. Filled to fulfil, God gives humankind a vocational calling and then blesses humankind with the capability to fulfil that vocation.

God breaths these words of blessing over humankind like a crowning ceremony or a knighthood, a call to duty and service with Him. God’s Word whirled all worlds into existence, but He then invited His beloved children, the bearers of His image into the great creative dance with Him. “Join me,” He whispers, “fulfil your vocation, the words of my blessing in you, my purposes for you. Fill yourselves up with my blessing and fully fill this world with your presence, my image in you. Create life as I have created life. And rule responsibly over this planet as I rule responsibly over all things. Represent me in all creation”.

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And today when we are truly living in the stream of our vocation with God, His blessing empowers us, strengthens us and carries us along in the current of our calling with Him.

A mandate, and a blessing. Two gifts stitched into the sinews of our humanity whispering to our souls that we are made for more than dust. But it is the third gift that makes these gifts make sense. The third gift that makes us truly who we are.

In chapter one of Genesis humankind receives their calling through a mandate and blessing from God and then in chapter two of Genesis we see the early outworking of this. We see human beings begin to be human. But interestingly enough, there is no part of this outworking that God Himself is not in some way intimately involved with. God gave us this mandate for the development and care of this whole whirling world of wonder, He gave us a blessing enabling us to fulfil our calling, but then He gives us one final gift, the gift that makes all the other gifts make sense. He gives us a partner, a friend, a mentor to be with us in our calling: He gives us Himself.

This God, our Father, is not a distant deity, He is not a disinterested uninvolved father. He is here, by our side, as close as the breath He placed in our lungs. We are loved. So we are given a calling. We are called, so we can learn that we’re loved. 

God was with human beings right there at the beginning of all things, close, intimate, present.  He is an attentive Father, actively involved in His children’s work and lives. He is not a dictator hurling orders from afar, but a mentor, walking alongside the beings He has entrusted His work to.

Humankind’s intimate partnership with God begins in a garden.  God planted this garden Himself and then placed humankind there (Genesis 2:8). And our partnership with God to fulfil the words of His mandate, empowered by His blessing is woven into the story of our beginnings and into the tapestry of human life before the birth of all our births, and the first of all our breaths.

‘This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.’ Genesis 2:4-7

Humankind’s place in the ecosystem of the garden included intimate interconnectedness with the Maker of all things, God providing the rain and water and humankind the muscle, an intimate ecosystem bringing order, life and further abundance to the garden begun by God.

We are not spectators but participators, authored with authority to name and tame, to know and care for the co-inhabitants of this spinning blue ball. God began all things, but He invites, blesses and empowers us to participate creatively with Him in the cultivation and completion of it. This means work.

‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.’ Genesis 2:15

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The word here for ‘work it’  means to cultivate, to add to and to develop. However there is a deeper thread woven into these words also; the verbs in the phrase ‘to work it and take care of it’ are also most often used in the Bible to represent not just a job or task, but the particular calling of serving God, a ministry, a special task for God, a priestly service.

In a world where work has become a means to an end, necessary for survival it is strange to think it could somehow be a form of worship. But that was the original intention, the plan for us. We are not created to be sweat-shop machines churning out results. We were created to take joy in our calling and view it as special, holy, a gift we are giving to our heavenly Father. Work is meant to be worship, not the hushed-quiet, hands-begin-backs, church-service-solemnity kind of worship, but a joy-filled, wonder-full, overbrimming, thankfulness-filled, love-inspired kind of worship; a celebration in honour of God, a party, and God loves to party!

Eric Liddell, Olympian and Missionary once said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure”. When we discover our God given vocation and pursue it, tend it, treasure it in partnership with God, we will feel His pleasure, His warmth, His smiling joy, His celebration of us and with us.

As Irenaeus once said, ‘The glory of God is a person fully alive!’. Our worship-filled work at the coalface of our calling is a gift to God, a blessing to Him. Our life and breath is God’s gift to us, our partnership with Him in our calling in His Kingdom is our gift to Him. 

Our work is our worship. God receives blessing and honour and joy every time a human being fully lives into the calling they were created for. And every human being is created for a high and holy calling, in some big ways and a thousand small ones.

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Human beings are not spectators, we are innovators, problem solvers, history makers and change creators, like our Heavenly Father. We name the world around us, we study it and know it and we begin to know ourselves, through our calling to it. We have a reason for being and a God who longs to walk with us in close partnership helping us to live that reason.

As the story continues we see the unfolding of this partnership as God personally brings to Adam all the animals he has been mandated to care for.

‘Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.’ (Genesis 2:18-20)

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 In bringing the animals to Adam and having Adam name them, God was helping Adam name his own calling, name his own relationship to his calling, name any fears or questions he might have, name that he had his work cut out for him. This is your job Adam, name them, study them, know them, love them, enjoy them, discover who they are so you can care for them with all the gifts grace has given you.

A Mandate and a Blessing could potentially just be words breathed into time and then forgotten. But this moment, this moment when Adam is asked to use all his human faculties to name and know these creatures he is called to, is the moment his mandate takes flight. The moment he is not just named human, but demonstrates evidence of being so. And God is right there by his side,  as close as the breath He placed in Adam’s lungs, mentoring him, leading him, partnering with him.

‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ Ephesians 2:10

We are created ‘in Christ Jesus’ to do good works, not alone, not in our own strength, not on a treadmill of drivenness or an island of isolation, but in strengthening, mentoring, loving partnership with God. With God.

But how do we know what our calling is? Is it a paid job? Is it a life’s work, or a moment’s? How do I know I’m on track? On song? So often we wrestle with these unsettling questions, but the simple answer is this; The more we know God, the more we will know ourselves, the more we walk with Him, the more He will lead us along the paths He has called us to. Unless we take this journey in partnership with Him, all we have at our disposal is our frail half-formed human identity. Only God knows who you truly are. Only He can take you there.

The one thing we can know though is that the one calling underneath all the specifics of all of our callings is ultimately always this; we are all called to be fully human and to bring that humanising image-of-God-humanity into every corner of our lives, every task of our jobs, every moment of our relationships and every interaction with our communities. The ‘glory of God is a person fully alive’, the hope of the world is for us to be fully alive in Him.

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Jesus knew His ‘garden’, He knew the mission God had given Him from at least the age of twelve (Luke 2:49). He also knew it was His ‘Fathers business’ not just His own. He knew His vocation was a gift from God, for the glory of God and could only be fulfilled in partnership with God.

Understanding that our human vocation, our calling in partnership with God is His work, not just ours, is essential both for our emotional well being and our partnership with God. So often our need for significance drives us to our treadmills and grinds us into the ground. This has never been the plan God had for humankind.

God, in the beginning role modelled rest…

‘Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.’ Genesis 2:1-3

And then He made it a command…

‘ Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.’ Exodus 20:8-11

Rest

God knew that our need for significance could drive us in all sorts of directions that would eventually destroy us. So He institutes rest, both to remind us of Him and our partnership with Him, and to remind us that we are not Him. We are finite, we are mortal, we need rest.

When we rest we say to God, ‘you are in control, not me. It is you who keeps this world spinning, you who keeps this breath in my lungs, you who brings all things to their fullness’. We can let go and rest because God is in control. Not us.

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Our Father, this God is a God who calls, calls us each by name, calls us His children, calls us human and calls us into service in this world with HimWe are loved, so we are given a calling. We are called, so we can learn that we’re loved. 

As long as we have the breath of God in our lungs and the Spirit of God in our hearts we are not just here to take up space and ‘zone out’ in front of a screen, we are not formed for wandering through shopping centres, TV shows and video games, wandering on Facebook, YouTube or Ebay. We are made for more than consuming consumerism and mindless idleness, and a grief rises from deep within us when we live in silent acquiescence to the lie that we are not.

We yearn for a sense of significance because we are created to be significant, our lives count, our heart’s lean towards purpose, longing to fulfil the call planted deep like a seed in our hearts.

‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ Ephesians 2:10

We are called children of God. And we are called.

God doesn’t want our half hearted lip-service in Sunday morning pews, He wants us fully human, fully alive, fully engaged in the vocational calling He’s gifted us for, walking in intimate partnership with Him every step of the way. ‘The glory of God is a person fully alive’, the hope of the world is for us to be fully alive in Him.

Life as a human being can be bewildering at the best of times, this is not because there is something wrong with us, but because there is something right with us. Existential emptiness and careless idleness doesn’t sit right with us because it isn’t right for us. Never has been. Never will be.

God made that clear, right from the very beginning.

 

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Hello, Thanks so much for taking time to read my blog. I’d love to hear from you anytime. 

This post is actually from my new blog project which is found at livethelongwalk.com. This site is particularly focused on what it means to walk out a life of meaning and purpose with God, joining Jesus on His path through the cross. Check it out if you are interested. Blessings, Liz

 

 

 

Photo credit

All photos were taken by Liz Campbell, except the photo of the lamb in a green field.

The lamb in a green field was taken by Simeon Evenhuis.

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