I just began reading a phenomenal, enjoyable, easy-reading but theological book titled, A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World. Charles Drew is a pastor in Manhattan who writes after thirty years of pastoring churches in university cities. In other words, as Tim Keller comments, it is “clear, personal, and culturally up-to-date.” I found it for four bucks on clearance at a bookstore – showing that many of the greatest gospel-centered relevant works are unmarketed and unknown. This is one of those.
My reading Drew coincides with my sermon prep-work on the Book of Jonah, our first expositional series at West Valley PCA (which started corporate worship 2 weeks ago). I am joyously amazed at how the themes of the early verses of Jonah dovetail with the beginning chapters of “A Journey Worth Taking.” It was not an intentional undertaking – I just needed a good read in the midst of the chaos!
Here is what I stand amazed to see: Jonah was a weak man who fled the presence of the Lord when he did not like the call of God to go to Nineveh. I am a weak man who wandersand sometimes runs from the gospel of God himself when I do not like how life and churchplanting and ME are too hard to figure out. THEN, in winsome gentleness, Charles Drew writes about the CALLING OF GOD that gives purpose to all of our weak and broken lives. For all of God’s children, there is the primary call to God and people, the secondary call to a faithful and joyful expression of who we are as our very selves, and there is the tertiary call of God to service (to certain tasks and duties that, in a fallen world, simply need to be done).
There you have it – the gospel is that as weak as we are in the quagmire of our own survival and self-definition (perhaps self-hatred) and sin, there is a Caller who is our Creator who created us to only know purpose according to his call! AND… his call is first and foremost to himself and to others (to relationship not task), secondly to ‘be ourselves’ as he created us uniquely, and thirdly to be agents of service in a broken world…
But here’s the thing – while it is glorious that God would call us in our weakness. (The voice of the perfect God calling the wayward heart of even you and me?!?!) While THAT is glorious, it is sad that much of the misery in my life – in the life of Jonah – occurs when we mix and match and confuse our primary, secondary and tertiary callings! When I live life such that my primary calling is to figure my own identity out (Secondary calling) – miserable. When I live life such that my primary calling is to be really good at a task or a job or whatever (tertiary calling) – miserable. We are called by the God of the universe to himself – nothing parallels or should ever supplant that!!! And yet, my pain in life comes when I define myself as a pastor first (great if things are easy, stinks if things are hard – either way WRONG). My pain comes when I define myself as a husband or father or soccer referee or soccer coach or bread-winner or whatever… Those are callings under the CALL to God himself!
This is where Jonah shows us the pain. Jonah fled the call of God in his life (at that particular time) to go to Nineveh to cry out against the city as a means of God’s gracious mercy to Nineveh. He didn’t like that call. But the text scares me in how it describes his flight. He fled the presence of God (1:3)! In other words, Jonah did not like the tertiary call to service, so he fled his primary call to know God himself! How could he cut himself off so! O my gosh, it’s a picture of me.
O God, would you help your people as we struggle through our secondary calling of ‘being our true selves’ in a world of conformity, or as we struggle through our tertiary call of serving your broken world well (our jobs, etc)… would the struggles in those departments NEVER supplant our submission to the JOYOUS primary call to know YOU. Thanks be to God for the Call of Weak people – called first to nothing other than being known and perfectly loved by the God of glory, Hallelujah! Why would we desire to be called to anything else first?!