As I reflect on 10 years of pastoral ministry, I've been talking with friends who are discerning God's call and job shifts, and it's got me thinking about U2. Some years back there was an article (can't find it) that talked about what the guys from Dublin would have done with their lives had they not become the world's biggest band. I recall that Larry would've been a police officer, etc. etc. Then it quipped, "Bono, of course, could only be Bono."
I know a few people like that. They're doing what they were born to do and it's hard to see them doing anything else. But most of us are like Edge, Adam and Larry (though not nearly so cool). We have many different gifts and many different interests. There are many possible paths we might take. If not this, then something else. And whatever we end up doing can lead to a meaningful life.
It makes discernment more difficult because you're not usually deciding between right and wrong, but right and right.
Or option A, which is slightly less right, and Option B, which is a little more right but requires a big jump into the unknown.
Or Option C, which is right in several very important ways, and Option D, which is right in several other completely different ways.
But being Edge or Larry or Adam is also very freeing. It's not about cracking the code and finding that one perfect vocation. It's about trusting that whatever you decide, you will be where you need to be in that moment. And if you're a Christian, it's about trusting that the Spirit can use you wherever you end up---that you will play a small part in God's grand dream of shalom for all.
You know those studies of people who won the lottery and those who became paraplegics? And how after six months of adjustment they were as happy or unhappy as they were before? Yeah. Like that.
During the last decade of ministry, there have been several crossroads moments for me---a church's search committee that came calling, or that first writing workshop I attended that unlocked something important in me, or a cool non-profit opportunity that tugged on my heart. The most significant was applying for a sabbatical while an associate pastor, only to be called to Tiny Church instead. In fact, three days after Tiny voted to call me, I got the notification that my sabbatical grant application had been accepted and the Lilly Endowment wanted to give me [mumble] thousand dollars to hike in the Rockies and visit Cinque Terre with Robert. I had to turn it down.
God and I had some words about the timing of that. But here we are.
Our family loves Billy Jonas. He's a sage in musician's clothing, with some Pied Piper thrown in. One of my favorite songs is "Anyway You Go You're Gonna Get There." Check it out:
I got lost far from home, I was scared, I was all alone A great big circus came my way; let me see what the fortunetellers have to say First one said, "home is near," second one said "you can't get there from here" Third one said, "it's time to scatter, cuz any way you go it doesn't matter…."
Chorus: Any way you go you're gonna get there! Any way you go you're gonna get there! Lean a little bit to where you wanna get Cause any way you go you're gonna get there!
Then here's the heart of the song:
What if I choose the wrong career? "Any way you go you're gonna get there!" And what if I make my choice in fear? "Any way you go you're gonna get there!"
Yes, some decisions are between right and wrong. But not most. Most moments of discernment are invitations to lean a little bit, and trust that any way you go you're gonna get there.
Are you discerning between Options A and B, C and D right now? How are you being called to lean?