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On Calling: Hidden for a Season

I spent two years in Bible college, filled with good times and hard times. Lots of learning, growing in confidence, leading missions, grasping at calling. It seemed God was calling me to something and I had just enough courage, craziness and curiosity to respond. Midway through, I made a university changing decision that would turn out to be a change the trajectory of your entire life decision. I had no idea how that one decision would reveal and change so much. It cost everything. The world I’d known, the plans I’d made. Everything.  My path changed and I landed in Sheffield, ready to pursue my calling.

One Sunday night I walked into a church called St. Thomas’ and I knew I’d stay. It was the warmth, the worship and word. And for this 20 year old it was also the amount of guys my age there!

I felt both awesome and scared when I arrived in Sheffield.  Ego and insecurity were two sides of the same coin. Publicly I felt awesome because I‘d been to BIBLE COLLEGE. I could sing, I could preach and I could lead (Or at least I thought I could).  I ‘served’ in a couple of places, but obviously this church was lucky to have me. I would make an awesome contribution. Still, I was scared because everyone was a stranger in this city. I was alone and salty tears are not great company. I knew I just needed time to build friendships, but my heart felt that time was wasting time. 

God began work on both sides of the coin. He asked me not to sing publicly, not get involved in a worship team for a year. It seemed an odd request, but it felt noble so I went with it. And for a week, I did great. Then, on the 8th day…

I compared myself to the singers in the worship band. Compared our vocal styles, assessed what the singers wore and how they worshipped. I told myself and Jesus how great I would be in their place. It wasn’t the first time I’d subjected Jesus to this particular monologue. I couldn’t celebrate anyone else’s gifts; I needed people to validate mine. It was so unhealthy. When repentance finally began, I wondered if fifty two weeks would be long enough.

Sunday nights were powerful, saturated in God’s presence. I sat in the balcony where the cool kids (read: men) were.  But by the end of the night I was on my knees at the front, sobbing, snotting, aching, mascara streaking my cheeks. Weekly. I moved downstairs to the second row and stopped wearing mascara to make it easier. For sixteen consecutive Sundays I wept. For loneliness, for loss, for the life I’d left behind. For the cost. In front of a few hundred people, I mourned as though God was the only one there. This was not the introduction to the pastors and church staff I hoped for! I hoped they’d be dazzled by my gifts, by recommendations from my Bible college professors. Instead they met a loud weepy mess with a runny nose and reckless mascara on her face.

 

I spent a lot of time alone that first year in Sheffield. It was an unexpected opportunity to dig deeper with God in prayer, worship and study. I studied Bible heroes like Moses, Joseph, Deborah, Daniel, Esther, Paul.  I saw character shaping struggles, life defining tests and trials, suffering and risk yet such faithfulness. Most of all, I saw God’s faithfulness. It utterly humbled my understanding of calling, exposed the flimsy confidence I’d placed in my Bible college experience.  And that so called awesome contribution I would make? Truth was, I didn’t need to be noticed; I certainly didn’t need a platform.  I needed to be hidden. Hidden not in some anticipation of a great reveal one day, but so I could learn that character is more important than gifting.  I needed to hear Him tell me who I was , whose I was, away from distractions. It may have appeared that God had closed the doors to leadership. He was actually opening the doors of my heart, reaching into the fault lines of brokenness, rescuing and redeeming my life at its very core. Leader or otherwise, above all else I needed Jesus. Leader or otherwise, above all else, I still do.

 

Are you in a ‘hidden’ season? 

How have you learned to embrace it?

 

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2 Responses to On Calling: Hidden for a Season

  1. Lorna 2014/03/12 at 2:42 am #

    “Character more important than gifting.” True.

    • Paul Marcus 2014/03/15 at 8:00 am #

      Jo,

      Thanks for your articulate and transparent post here. This is, packaged very differently, my story. My continuing story. Repenting of wanting to be noticed, resisting God’s sometimes gentle, sometimes harsher, but always consistent beautiful request for me to return and be hidden in Him. My history, probably like yours, always leads me to needing to be noticed, visible, and heard. My God, most definitely the same as yours, leads me to another hidden season, right now. Hmmm. Have I learned to embrace it? A little bit more every day, but, truly, no. In a few short weeks, I’ll join my first huddle. That, I believe, is God’s answer to my prayer to help me embrace it!

      Hidden in Him,

      Paul