Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Achievement (03/08/12)
TITLE: A Change of Direction
By Ruth Thoutenhoofd
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He and his family attended a very strict, legalistic church. They believed in Jesus, plain clothes, and nonresistance. What was confusing was that no one really knew which of those things were more important. If asked, they would have said Jesus of course, but it was hard for kids to tell by the conversations and debates of the adults.
They also believed in “going in to all the world” and James was strongly attracted to the life of a missionary doctor who came and showed pictures one Sunday night. He knew what he wanted to do with his life! He would become a missionary doctor.
So, very young, he enrolled in university miles away from his home town and had a rough time at first. He was a little too young to be away from his family and support system. He found school was hard at first, but eventually he settled in and soon showed remarkable promise in the sciences.
He kept moving forward, the top of his class, easily getting accepted into medical school in one of the best universities in the country. His family was very proud of him. A rising star. No one else could compete with James. He was in a class of his own.
Gradually, the dream to become a missionary doctor faded as he became sought after in the best universities. Perhaps it would have been seen as a waste of God-given talent. Perhaps it was thought that a mind like his needed to have the greatest possible influence. And so it did. He rose to the pinnacle of what was possible in his field. His research in one of the world’s top universities was valuable and he made discoveries no one else had made. He was given the best job his field had to offer. He had “arrived.”
In his memoirs, he gave honor to his parents, his religious heritage, and his hardworking upbringing. He was honored by many for his fine character and unusual abilities in leadership – his humanity, his tolerance. He was a genuinely nice guy and everyone respected him. He never rocked any moral or political boats, yet he managed to accomplish great things in the medical field in one of the greatest countries in the world.
Did he do what he had been called to do? It would be thought outrageous to suggest otherwise. When we use our gifts to the fullest extent and achieve the highest pinnacle possible, we are assumed to have done what God has called us to do.
But I wonder.
Many young people have a passion for one thing and end up doing something else as life carries them along. We smile at how life turns out and even expect it to work out differently from the original dream. The vast majority of God’s people ascribe to the theology of the “open door.” God is sovereign and opens doors to us along the way, and if the doors don’t shut in front of us – we keep walking through them. It’s a logical, reasonable approach to life.
But I can’t get this man out of my mind. I keep wondering what would have happened if he had pushed forward in the passion he thought God gave him as a teen, turning aside the accolades and honors to meet the needs of the “least of the least.” What might have been done in the world of medicine to alleviate some of the worst suffering we hear about today? What if God had in mind, when he created James’ brain and personality, a vastly different track?
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