Editor’s Note: Missioner Janice Smullen reflects on some of the the conversations she had before she left for Jamaica when she explained to others what she was going to do. Often, the response she received was, “I would like to do what you are doing, but…” After these conversations, Janice reflected on the notion of God’s call in our lives.
What is a “call?” At the beginning of formation, I would joke that I felt more of a push than a call. However, by the end of formation, I knew that I had truly heard a call and I was ready and willing to follow that call to a brighter and larger place than I had ever entered before.
For me, the timing was opportune: the kids were grown, my lifestyle had downsized, and I wanted to use my retirement time to serve. I was the only one in that position within our class of five missioners-in-training; the other four were just out of college.
After turning to Scripture, I realized a lot of things about being called by God:
- Age doesn’t need to be a factor (see Anna and Simeon in Luke’s Gospel.)
- The Call may manifest after a struggle, such as in the stories of Jacob, Jonah, and Paul.
- The Call may become apparent after lengthy times of service or duty.
- The Call may be recognized after a life of devotion.
- The Call is very countercultural.
Circumstances differ, but in all of these Biblical examples, the answer to the call is, either emphatically, or eventually yes!
We have to let go of our own understanding of and expectations for a call in order to actually hear it.
Mark Twain once said, “Some folks say what makes them nervous and anxious is the parts of the Bible that they don’t understand. What makes me nervous and anxious is the parts that I understand, but do not do.”
When I meditate on Christ’s life and death, I see the answer. I have heard it said that we come to know Christ through great love or great suffering.
My theory of living a life in Christ is that Jesus eternally and fully knew the power of God’s love and he came to earth to learn about suffering. We humans know about suffering all too well. Our call here is to grow in and share love.
As a missioner, my call is to be an example of love and to nurture and empower others to experience a brighter and larger world.
Reflection Question: What is holding you back from answering God’s call in your own life?
Featured image: photo taken by Janice Smullen at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC.