Saturday, February 18, 2012


Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24)

I’m familiar with that part of the story. I holler up at Him, pointing at my  bruised knee, battered ego, and he picks me up, dusts me off and we carry on. Humbling, pathetic, mewling, but a comfortable predictable pattern. The created and her Creator. The clay and its Potter. The questioner and the Answer.

I’ve never had a calling. I like to write, play soccer, and teaching is okay, too. I prefer to be busy and useful. Being cold stinks and having access to cookies makes my life both chubbier and happier. I like being at home with my family, but I like abroad, too. School was fun; work is interesting.

At no point have I felt Called.

As I understand it, there are many different ways for this capital C to occur. A friend described one type of calling as being “hit over the head with a two-by-four.” The obvious choice: you grew up reading dictionaries so you become an English professor. You see a child die on the street in front of you and from then on you know you were always supposed to go to medical school.

Then there’s a whole set of shades of grey until, at the other end of the spectrum, you have where I’ve always lived. As mom puts it, God lays out two or three or four options, shrugs, and says, “You chose and I’ll bless it, okay?” I fell into going to Calvin, being an English major, and then coming to Korea. Even these last two months were an unpredictable fluke.

“So how did you find out about H.E.L.P Thailand?” I was asked a dozen times.
“Ummm...I got into an argument with a coworker and maybe it...snowballed from there? I don’t remember.”

But as Terry Pratchett says in Good Omens:

“God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”

I love this description because it’s how I see God in my life: loving and always guiding me, but ineffable. So I’m a little freaked out when it seems like God is—quite suddenly—hefting a two-by-four. The conversation, over four or five days and said ineffable game of cards, has gone something like this.

God:    So, you’ve had a good trip, right? Ready to go back?
Me:      Yes and no.
God:    Do tell.
Me:      I’m happy here; I love it. But I’m a little tired, and I miss my personal space. And it’s frustrating to teach willy-nilly like this, with no schedule. Plus the weather never changes here.
God:    Scintillating. What about your job?
Me:      shrug I get five months paid vacation. That’s pretty cool.
God:    Which you use to go volunteer with an NGO.
Me:      So you’re saying I should be a missionary.
God:    Goodness. I said that?
Me:      I can’t afford it on my own and don’t want to waste peoples’ money.
God:    shuffles the cards Here. Allow me bring about four conversations with mature Christians about financial matters within my Church.
Me:      blinking Oh. Huh. I’ll, uh, keeping reading. Maybe like a year and a half?
God:    Because you want to travel more and earn money so you don’t have to ask others for it or trust me that I’ll provide what you need and put you to work in six months.
Me:      So...a year and a half?
God:    You remember Jonah?
Me:      I'll keep praying about it, then?
God:    You do that. I’ll hold onto the cards.

There are pros and cons and cons and protestations of all sorts. Maybe I’m just homesick right now—missing P’Bry and mystery meatballs and the outdoorseyness of Thailand that Korea will never possess. I can't deny that Korea, while now familiar, doesn't feel right.

Don’t get me wrong. Korea still makes me laugh with its puffy coats, manpurses, and some girl with donut-scented lip-gloss on the subway which somehow manage to plague me all afternoon. I love seeing my friends again. I took not one, but two 15-minute showers today. And it’s certainly easier to write in an apartment by myself.

Sometimes, Sara Holbrook says, alone is a relief.

But sometimes—after you’ve realized no one has sung “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart” today—it’s a burden. (I tried during my second 15-minute shower, but I sounded stupid by myself.) 

I feel like I’m on the bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok again, still staring out the window thinking anything, fighting tears, stomach queasy.

So, I'll keep praying about it.

Jersey buddies