~CALLING~ PART 2
A week ago I wrote a post in which I mentioned my “calling.” I promised to explain further. Here goes.
My life has not been lived with a calling in mind. The events in my life have followed the common path of living that many have undertaken just like me. In a nutshell, the usual education, then college, marriage, family, and career. My life started heading another direction when I found myself in the position of divorced single parent and main breadwinner for a family of five children (one in college). I hadn’t planned on this development but knew it might happen because of a history of instability in the marital relationship. In other words, I needed a career out of necessity but it wasn’t the desire of my heart to work so hard and do so much! I preferred being a stay-at-home mom. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. Life happens and you go with it. You do what you have to do.
My Christian faith has been important to me since age sixteen when I clearly felt the tug of God in my heart. It was a dramatic moment and a very quiet one as I wept and prayed sitting on a deck on the backside of a canvas cabin during a week of church camp near La Porte, California. God has been a part of my decisions and life ever since. Somehow that moment in time with God sealed my relationship and “want-to” serve God for the rest of my life. I have never doubted God’s presence or reality since. Throughout high school and college I only dated Christian men and was moral in my relationships. This was important to me. However, it did not keep me from using poor judgment or making some unwise choices mainly due to my naiveté. In time, I married a Christian man from a much different background than mine. There were some good times, and we had five children together, but it never was a close union. I experienced some harsh realities in my marriage that made it challenging, but my husband supported me in the way I wanted to raise our children. He was not critical of me which was a blessing. God was my strength when the difficulties started mounting.
The years were not kind to me. My mate made some choices that hurt me deeply. There were times I called out to God in deep pain while trying to keep the family from becoming damaged. My extended family and church family came along side of me to help with the things I could not do and to offer love to all of us. The marriage fractured and repaired several times. Each time I felt a little more dead inside. But I wouldn’t quit. I loved my husband and believed God would eventually heal our marriage. I can now say, that without God as my dearest and best friend, I could not have survived the struggle of those years. Even so, I did have a break-down that took at least four years to overcome, which I did on my own without any medical help as I clung to God for His divine ministrations.
In those days I never considered a “calling” on my life. I wasn’t an evangelist and my faith was fairly quiet. In church I would find myself leading the children no matter what church we were in. However, my secret desire was to lead women. I could see their hurts and also that many of them suffered from emotional wounds in ways that made me want to offer a comforting shoulder for them to cry on or a heart of love to come along side to pray with them. But, my inner wounds were great and I didn’t know the secret for walking with Christ in a way that is free. I wanted to help but I didn’t know how to help for I did not have answers at the time. But even more destructive to this concept was a personal belief in my own inadequacy to the task and my lack of skill in relating to others. I suppose my sense of being unloved in my marriage contributed to this feeling of inferiority but it was also complicated by my shyness and lack of personal attainment in areas of weakness.
Then someone said something to me that startled me, sort of waking me up, placing value in my self-perception. We were living in that mountain town that I mentioned in an earlier post,. The man was the minister of a Calvary Chapel where we had been attending with our four small children. For Christmas, I had led the church children in a little program. Everyone was so appreciative. The minister was fairly new to the church, a man older than my husband and me. My husband spent some time with him for some sort of counsel and had explained some of his stuff. The minister was in our small home for some reason which I no longer remember. He spoke to me, “Norma. There is something special about you. You have a gift.” His words took me by surprise and I remember wondering what he had seen in me to say such a thing. It was like water raining in the parched desert, like a rich dessert when you’ve been eating vegetables for a week. He made me feel special by saying it when I’d quit believing in my specialness. The years had beaten down my spirit.
You know, we all are special. Each one of us in our own way has something to give, something to say that is all our own. Remember that when you are discouraged or down about life. You are special. God made you that way.
Many years passed. Life became more complex. We moved. The family fell apart permanently. I lost my sister in a tragic death. Soon I became a single parent, recovering from rejection, repairing from his unfaithfulness. My pastor wanted me to begin a Women’s Ministry which I did and led for many years. I found myself directing choir and writing Christmas programs for my church—directing stellar performances (I was so proud of the kiddos and adults), teaching the story lessons in Awana Club, teaching Children’s Church, and doing just about everything you can do in the teaching realm at church. I worked and worked. Doing and doing. Nothing yet about calling.
My spiritual recovery and my inner healing began the day I gave it all up. Yes. I did. It was the day I was served marriage dissolution papers. I was forty-six. The jig was up. That day I knew that everything was over and life would never be the same for me or the children. The dream had ended badly. That evening I decided that if I had to be divorced, then at least I was going to turn a new leaf and commit it to God. I sat down and wrote a list of everything I was committing to God and what I desired from Him. I told Him that I had done everything the best way I knew how to do it. That I had been obedient to Him through it all. That I had given it my all, my everything, to try to keep the marriage together, even giving up my own personal happiness, but it had not been enough. I told Him I was giving up, that God could do what ever He wanted to do with me and I would learn anything He wanted to teach me. I made a promise to God that day, one that I have kept as fully as I know how. I promised God that anything I would learn from what He wanted to teach me, I would use for Him.
A process began to unfold. The process included an emptying of my self, my wants and my wishes. I began praying lengthy and personal prayers. I kept a journal of thoughts and quotes from the books I was plowing over. I sought God with my whole heart, fully focused though grieving deeply over my losses. Through this process of searching for God, I began to heal in my fractured heart. This was extremely painful as I revisited the past to seek closure and newness. For four years amazing moments with God became the norm for me. In my excitement, I would share elements of this with my ladies in my Women’s Ministry group. God became alive to me. Did you know, God desires our broken hearts? We listen best and yield more fully when we let go and quit doing it our way.
In time, I had this inner compelling to tell my story to my church family. There were many parts in my story I had kept secret to protect my family, not even my minister knew the worst parts of it. For eighteen months I debated whether to tell my story. I was afraid to speak about the adultery, yet that had been the hardest part for me, even worse than the abandonments. I knew I could only speak because God had healed me and had become so real in my personal walk. Over the years, I had figured out some truths about the church that I wanted to share as well. Things like, why legalism doesn’t work...which is because it is not based on “relationship,” about loving because of God’s love in us wants to flow out, and “doing” versus “being,” that we get in the wrong order in church work. It took me two Sundays to share out, almost an hour in length for each one. Pain and healing. That was it. After speaking, I expected God to open up a ministry to the hurting. But He didn’t. That came later. It is just now unfolding.
My desire to share my love for God with you and with others is a great compelling God has put in my heart. My book, The Meeting Place, is a labor of love to show my book’s readers that God is here. He is with us. God is interested in us. In recent years I have sensed God has more for me than I have as of yet experienced. I found my school teaching frustrating. Not only was it stressful, but in general my heart was seeking a new direction. To find a way to reach out to the world to share the sweetness of my Savior and to help other sufferers find healing for their deepest hurts in the emotional realm. I could not speak of Jesus to my students or with most of my colleagues. That was very hard to not do when the needs are often so great. During a visit to Colorado to see my daughter and her family, I picked up a book off of her shelf, one she had read for a course at Biola, a Christian university. It was about our calling, how God has a purpose for all of us, a reason for our existence. This calling is something that only we can do. I was reading the book at my leisure, yet I knew what Os Guinness was saying. Calling doesn't always seem sensible. Common sense can block a sense of calling in our lives. Remember when Jesus said to the teachers in the synagogue, “I must be about my Father’s business.” That is calling. He knew what he was here to do and then he went about doing it.
What does my calling look like? I am not so sure. A year ago I left my teaching position even though I needed at least another six years to retire with a livable pension, double the amount I am receiving now. To leave or not leave my teaching career was a great debate within me that I could not silence. In the end, I believed it was time to step out in faith into the calling I felt God had been preparing me for all my life. Publishing my book was a small step in the direction of calling. Even it was not without its worries. When you have a family and you are writing personal accounts, you have to think about your family and your ex-husband, that they might not like everything you write. It works that way. God comes first. We can still be kind though, in what we say or how we say it.
I no longer feel bad about the way my life has turned out or the hardships I have experienced. They have made me what I am and have given me a vehicle to use to share how God has sustained me through it all. I believe He knew all along that I would always turn to Him and that in the end, He could call me to share His grace and goodness with you and the world. He says to not count the cost. And, that is what I shall do.
|Going to court years later over custody issues. Anxious. Trusting in God.|
God is good to us. He has never taken my smile away. Praise Him for giving me something to smile about. He is good to us.
Blessings to you all. God loves you.
Norma L. Brumbaugh