Confusing Man’s Calling with God’s Calling

by Dawn Aldrich

Young girl praying

We received word that the youth pastor of our home church resigned. Having worked alongside him during school breaks, we knew the void he’d leave behind. So, we rolled up our sleeves and dove into youth ministry wholeheartedly during our summer vacation.

My husband (then fiance) and I drew upon our past youth group experiences, designing and implementing the summer ministry program. It all came so easily, like we were designed to do this. The youth responded so positively, that the pastor’s wife nonchalantly asked, “When are you done with school so you can become our next youth pastors?”

Those were weighty and dangerous words, but we didn’t know it back then.

Starry-eyed, we eagerly returned to college with the blessing of our pastor and his wife and changed our college majors from writing (me) and computer science (my husband) to Christian education. I distinctly recall my writing professor offering this thought: God can still use you in (youth) ministry even with a writing major. But, I dug my heels in and refused his suggestion, convinced “God’s” call to youth ministry meant being “full-in” regardless of my talents and educational investment. My husband felt the same.

Six months later, our pastor called to apologize. He’d left the church and was moving his family to the Midwest. Furthermore, with our home church in a tizzy over his move, there would be no youth ministry dream-job waiting for us when we graduated the following year. Our hearts sank with disappointment.

Only two semesters stood between us and graduation. Again, we stuck our heels in, convinced that if our pastor and his wife saw God’s calling on our lives, then surely, it must be true. That summer, busy with our internship and wedding plans, we forged ahead, praying that God would lead us to the right church.

Again, everything went smoothly, landing a youth pastor position only a few months into our newlywed senior year.

Three years into that position our life struggle began. We knew youth ministry was far from God’s calling. Loving the youth, but not the “ministry position”, we headed home—more confused and unsure of God’s calling on our lives than ever. No matter where we sought refuge and counsel we were only offered “atta boys” and offers to fill volunteer youth positions.

Desperately seeking Godly counsel, the best one pastor offered us was this: “Well, since you’ve decided to leave the ministry, don’t dwell on what’s past. Move forward and forge ahead.” Not helpful. Not helpful or thoughtful at all.

We struggled for years, unsure of what God wanted to do with our lives—wondering if we’d let Him down when we left full-time ministry. Over time, God revealed that knowing our true calling came down to this:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

In our early years we hadn’t truly sought God about our calling. We’d sought the praise, adoration and confirming words of men—our pastor, his wife, elders, our peers and family—simply men. How could we know what God was thinking without seeking Him first? Who can know the mind and thoughts of a stranger? And that’s what God was to us, a stranger. But when we sought God first through private and corporate worship, when we truly spent time in relationship with our Father—conversing and listening to Him—we could hear Him more clearly.

Remember our original majors, writing and computer science? Yeah, that’s what God called us to be…a writer and a computer engineer entrepreneur. It’s how He wired us and how He intended to use us effectively. One spins words and thoughts into coherent stories while the other thinks logically and builds intricate networks with foresight.

Does it matter that we aren’t using those things in “full-time, church ministry?” No…because if we are followers of Christ, our lives are ministry. Everything we do, every talent, every gift, every word and action should point others to Jesus, wherever we find ourselves.

Seek God first. Weigh man’s words against God’s. Then, live your life’s calling wherever you go.