Like most people, I like to know where I’m going.
All through school I dreamed of becoming a teacher. What else, with so many holidays? And what could be easier than talking to kids?
But high school’s arrival, accompanied by puberty, meant that going to school was still okay; as was coming home. But anything between those times became a drag. Though rebellion set in, I still wanted to be a teacher…
At sixteen God invited me to exchange rebelling for rebirth, and a sense of destiny replaced the drag, for I knew my testimony would connect with the kids I would teach one day. I launched into every available Christian activity...
That same year I sensed God sowing a vision for me to be a preacher. Fantastic; for I just knew that teaching was the best introduction to ministry. Every preacher I knew had been a teacher at first. I felt blessed enough to overlook any need to study hard enough to maintain the entrance levels required for any education degree.
Until I failed to qualify.
Rebirth had overtaken my rebellion, but it did not change my reality. God’s call was still strong, though now I could see no way to respond.
My first year out of school saw four different jobs (including a two-week career in door to door encyclopaedia sales) and moving nine times in three different cities. The call was still real, but its credibility was slipping dramatically within the confusion.
My parents welcomed me back home, and I visited a local employment agency. God was also there, heavily disguised as the counsellor who heard my confusion and asked: “Would you like to do this sort of work?” Looking around the office, I said: “Okay!”
The assessment procedures felt very welcoming, and close mentoring and regular training seminars filled out my grasp of the work. I also discovered I’d already passed a course in empathy for uncertain clients. This course had taken all of the previous year – with its four different jobs … But I won’t repeat myself.
Within a few months I was counselling and arranging placements for clients with disabilities. Disabilities that ranged from sore feet to dandruff! My training stepped up - though my first resource was medical dictionary that very helpfully explained medical terms by using other medical terms!
A new door opened into very well-paid secular employment that still enabled me to express my faith in a very practical ministry; face to face with clients; and through regular liaision with specific-disability agencies. The work also stretched to visiting prisons, to interview those who were approaching mutually-agreed departure-dates. Funnily enough, these interviews inadvertently fulfilled a grim-faced senior saint’s prophecy from my rebel years- that I would be the first of the bunch to go to prison!!! Hopefully I didn’t disappoint him
Over six years my call to pastoring morphed into a confirmation that I was enjoying what God had promised Abraham – being blessed to be a blessing to others.
However during an Easter youth camp in 1972; while singing a familiar, anonymously-penned chorus about being available to God; a line hit home: “I cannot out-give him for he gave his all, can I do less than answer his call?” And suddenly I had a big decision to make, because God clearly still had me on his mind.
My ministry training began the following February. Exactly when it would have, had I qualified for teaching and then worked out the minimum contract period before being allowed to resign! God’s call – and even his timing – had not changed. But his grace made room for all the twists and turns – and all my frustrations – over six years.
I’m still discovering how easy it is to trip over days of opportunities if I keep agonising over years of yet-unfulfilled possibilities.
My varied work experience has opened ministry possibilities that teaching could never have prepared me for. But God also has a great sense of humour.
He has allowed for my educative aspirations by introducing me to my wife. For she is a highly-qualified teacher!
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