God Called Me… and Then Put Me on Hold For a Year
In September of 2019, I had a mountaintop experience at the top of an actual mountain, at the beautiful monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
There, on my first ever spiritual retreat, I felt a true call to return to the ministry I had left behind. I was sure God was calling me to preach again, for a world in crisis, a world that really needed my specific voice, for some particular reason. But it didn’t go at all the way it was supposed to.
God called me — I was sure of it. But then God put me on hold for, like, more than a year.
And I didn’t even get any of those annoying but helpful messages, like “Your call is important to us” or “Your hold time is approximately three months…” or whatever.
But I think I’m about to get put through now, so I’m just trying to get my thoughts together in case I actually do get a connection. Hopefully I can help others who might be in a similar predicament.
God calls even when the cell service is crummy
So I went to that retreat, and, heart on fire, I’ve been preaching, searching, and yearning ever since. Thinking at first I was destined to find a church to serve, I sought and listened for a call— and heard instead, with the rest of the world, the awful stillness of the pandemic, which emptied the churches and stifled their aspirations.
I loved my itinerant preaching, and believed in preaching into the virtual world — but with the pandemic, and circumstances, cutting off the paths I had imagined, I was disappointed after months of searching.
So I started over.
When I return to my beginnings, I always discover there my inner certainty that God really is still speaking, in some transcendent language of sound and sight and sense, and that sometimes we can access this Word, in ways that may or may not include words, music, sight, senses.
“Our menu options have changed…”
As months went by, I continued to hold — metaphorically, of course, because in real life I was actively seeking a full-time ministry while working as a supply preacher. But as I explored, I realized that I probably should not choose the “settled minister” option, where I’d be expected to spend the next seven years or so, shepherding a friendly church into oblivion.
Age was only one factor; I am much older than I look, my dears. I’m serious. I am 50 billion year old carbon, same as you.
More importantly, what I offer is the knowledge that deep change is happening whether we like it or not.
I want to help churches survive that awful moment when they realize: they must either change or die.
So I went back to school and trained for interim ministry, and struggled some more, and waited some more. And doubted my call some more, if I’m honest, because I was still on hold.
God really seems to make me completely use up everything I have before letting me access the next thing. I’m serious. I have to hit abasement level. It’s a known phenomenon around my house.
Me (8:30 p.m.) “No one will ever want to hire me, ever again!”
Beloved Spouse: (wisely says nothing but looks sympathetic)
Me (8:45 p.m.) “Look, honey! I just got this email from this search committee and they want to talk with me!”
Beloved Spouse: “I never doubted you.”
“Your call is being connected…”
With gratitude, I can now say that I have covenanted to serve a wonderful church in my area as a transitional minister, beginning this July: the very thing, apparently, for which I was being fitted while I was on hold with God.
This past year-and-a half has been rewarding in the same way a vigorous workout is rewarding (or so I am told by those who believe in vigorous workouts). Here’s what I learned while I was on hold with God:
- I do believe God called me, extravagant as the language may sound to some. It’s a little bit mystical and magical. And it’s real. I love that feeling, and I do not want to give it up.
- I have so far avoided the fallacy of believing that the delays caused by the pandemic were God’s way of testing my faith. (Because that would make God a colossal jerk, right?
- And I’ll bet others have felt called by God, too; and those who don’t talk about it are the ones quietly living good lives and doing heroic deeds.
Robo calls, prank calls, God calls
I’m not unique in this experience, of course. Other people have been called by God and answered far more fully than I have. Others were called and said, “Buzz off” into the phone. Or words to that effect.
- Maybe they already gave at the office.
- Maybe they’ve been put on hold by God before.
- Maybe they just didn’t recognize the number.
There’s a lot more we could say about people’s sense of what they are called to do in their lives, but I feel as if my call from God might be coming through any minute, and I want to keep the lines clear.
Plus, the community of faith that I’m about to join to lead and serve has important messages of its own to get out, too — messages of radical acceptance and profound transformation through powerful love.
“If you know God’s extension, please dial it now…”
Ah. yes; God’s extension. I knew there was something I should have asked when I first got that call, up on that mountain.
Last bit of advice. If you get a call from God and they ask if they can put you on a brief hold?
Get a call-back number.