Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I had quite a conversation with my daughter recently, and she shared with me what were the happiest moments of her life. She said that the most treasured and memorable time was when she was growing up and we were living at the Training College at Denmark Hill. I enquired why she felt this way. She said it was because she felt very secure; she could play safely outside with her friends, had access to the kids club and loved the school she attended.
As we spoke though, she reminded me that by the age of 10 years old she had attended 6 different schools and 9 by the time she reached the age of 18. I often think that this is possibly the reason she doesn’t seem to settle at anything, but wants instead to be on with the next thing. I found myself apologizing for the upheavals that she has lived through in the short 19 years of her life. She reflected on our chat and said that she looks on them as the experiences that have made her into the person she is today! Her reflections were far from positive; she spoke specifically to me about the lack of support given to ‘officers children’ when their parents leave the work, for whatever reason. It’s painful recalling how the seemingly secure life of that officer’s child, my precious daughter, was thrown into such turbulence in an instant…
She said she would have appreciated the opportunity to talk with someone about what was happening in her life; the innocent victim in the separation from service process. When she talks about our ‘officership days’ she says instead, ‘When we were officers’. She feels that she was just as involved in church ministry as her father and I were. Sadly for her, she experienced four separations and bereavements concurrently; her parents were separating, she lost her home, she had to move to another town, she left all her friends behind. And one can add to that list; left the “home” corps, left the familiar corps’ youth groups and leaders; her spiritual mainstay. I wonder if in the busyness of doing God's work amongst the masses we somehow neglect the needs of those few closest and most dear to us, the OKs, believing God will see to their unique needs.
It wasn’t until she became a teenager that we found a supportive counseling program for her. She was provided access to the ‘relateen’, a national UK organization providing guidance and counseling service for children whose parents separate or divorce. It was through this counseling service that she was able to talk and work through the many painful and confusing issues. She shared though, that while the counselor was helpful and supportive, “the person never really fully understood my pain and frustration. She didn’t understand “the Army” part of it, the commitment that we as a family had shared prior to our abrupt departure and separation."
I would be interested to hear if anyone else’s children have experienced similar difficulties. Also, if anyone knows if the Army now offers support to children whose parents are leaving officership? I understand that establishing such a support program might be difficult, but I am sure that in every Division there could be a team of officer or soldier volunteers who would be willing to give of their time to support any young person who is faced with these unique upheavals in their far from ordinary life. In my professional life today I see clearly just how important counseling can be in healing the psyche (spirit). I would add though, that I don’t believe it would be a good idea for the support to be in the same Corps where the young person was active, as this could prove difficult for both the young person and the supporting adult(s).
I would be very interested, as I’m certain others would be as well, to receive comments on your experience and what we might do to initiate change.
Hull Citadel Corps
Friday, August 24, 2007
Oswald Chambers captures what I consider the healthiest of all views on the subject of calling when he says, “… we are called to God and we choose a service.” To him and obviously to me, calling is less about specific life-long tasks divvied out by God to a select group of special agents called officers than it is about a relationship with Him.
Many individuals will fight to the death over the issue of the reality of their individual calling to officership, or to The Army. I have little time or interest in arguing about anyone else’s experience or dogma, and I gladly grant that whatever it is that they feel is sacred to their sense of ministry is, indeed, just that. What I offer, however, is another acceptable view supported by a preponderance of Biblical evidence.
After years of struggle with the inconsistencies found in the traditional sense of calling, I had come to believe, even before reading Chambers, that our primary calling is to a relationship with God, nothing else. When the concept of calling is used in the Bible, especially the New Testament, it invariably, but not always relates to a universal calling to a spiritual state of being, not a physical place of doing.
After a very tedious computer word search, I discovered that in The Old Testament, the word “called or calling” relates to the naming or summoning of something or someone, calling out to God in prayer or specific callings to a very select few by angels, or occasionally, by God Himself. The prophets were called to perform occasional truth bearing tasks, which they did. Moses was called to give all of his last forty years to a specific calling, but if I am not mistaken, most had other jobs as well.
Jesus called people, especially children, to himself to hear His message, to be appointed to perform specific tasks and always to “follow” Him. That command is not always associated with full-time professional ministry. The restored mad man of Gerasa wanted to tag along with Jesus but his calling was to go home and witness. There are far more examples of this “calling” than there were Apostles. In fact, it was only after Christ’s resurrection and the Pentecost experience that the Apostles fully understood their ministry was vocational, until death. The call to follow Him is certainly a lifelong spiritual commitment, but not everyone is charged and anointed, as were the Apostles, to literally leave all and follow into the unknown. However, Jesus certainly expects His followers to be willing to do so, if necessary.
To justify the concept of specific callings, many look to the familiar examples of individuals recorded in the Scripture who received a personal tap on the shoulder from God to play special or particular roles. There is no doubt that Abraham, Jonah, Moses, Elijah, Samuel, Elisha, Saul, Elizabeth, Mary and even the likes of Samson and some others were specifically called by God to serve Him in a given moment. A few heard His voice directly, but most received their assignments through His messengers, the prophets, or angels.
In the New Testament, God or His messenger mysteriously visited the Virgin Mary, Elisabeth and Saul of Tarsus asking them to serve Him in unique ways. Even Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, said He was “anointed” by the Spirit to preach, heal, release and model the Kingdom of God. (Luke 4:18-19)
There is no argument or doubt about the veracity of such divine interventions, but when normal folks like most of us try to claim such unique experiences like those of the prophets and Apostles, it does not stand up well. In fact, other than those handful of Biblical examples called specifically by God to perform specific dispensational tasks, there is no other evidence or need for such career specific callings coming from God, and to me, any such doctrine speaks more to dogma than doctrine.
Our Service Still Matters
Certainly, our role need not be as spectacular as Peter’s, or as powerful as Paul’s to be effective and pleasing to God. He wants to empower us, however, with the same resurrection power He gave to them. Also, He will one day judge all of us according to what we did with what we were given. For power to be what He expects us to be, we can depend upon the promises of God: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” Philippians 3:10a(NIV), and “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)
Saying that, many individuals do feel “led” or “called” to follow a spiritual instinct or leading, and use their gifts and sanctified desires. Usually, however, I suspect these “callings” come more from the context of something they know - a family heritage, following a spouse’s conviction, a compelling need or opportunity to help, or something with which they are familiar - or to which they have been exposed. For example, those who visit Africa are often so moved by what they experience they are far more prone to feel called there, than to Russia. In most cases, the opposite would also be true.
Similarly, teachers do not often claim that God miraculously expects them to be surgeons, nor is the illiterate’s calling to be a scholar taken seriously by ecclesiastical sponsors. Certainly, we cannot shorten the arm of God, and with Him, all things are possible, but such aberrant anointings are, to our knowledge, very rare. It should be clear, however, that there is no less integrity associated with service or ministry that originates in one’s personal desire or conviction than in another’s mystical “private experience.”
The message of the scriptures is clear: all believers – even former officers - are called first to relationship with God, and then to live out their faith through a demonstrative relationship with Christ - all day, every day, full-time, through an appropriate vocational service.
One need not wait for a special calling or ordination from a denomination to be a full-time servant of God. Some folks hide behind such dogma, but there is no kidding anyone; God wants us all to be active in serving Him, in our unique way. Certainly, our service is unique, but I believe our calling is universal. Being called to relationship with Him will, by His natural design, yield its own sense of individual purpose and vocation for every believer.
Dr. David Benner writes about several general callings to all believers. One is a calling to be human beings that Jean Vanier describes as, “ a journey from loneliness to a love that grows in and through belonging”, a love that “liberates us from self-centered compulsions and inner hurts …that finds its fulfillment in forgiveness and in loving those who are our enemies” The Gift Of Being Yourself (page 96). The second calling Benner mentions is our calling to be Christians (Italics mine). “Genuine Christ-following will always make us more, not less, human” (page 96). He goes on to identify a number of what I call general callings common to all believers. We are all called to:
Mission – The use of gifts and abilities, not jobs or roles
Vocation – A way that is best for us and best for the world
Community – Our united loving service of God and neighbor
In one sense, we cannot hope to bring any kind of valuable or credible service to God without a spiritual calling from Him and a specific response to Him. It comes in the form of relationship that begins with truth and extends through the process described as our “reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) To forge ahead for any reason outside of our worshipful response to His love and grace is a direct and tragic road to failure and frustration.
Jack C. Getz
Atlanta, GA - USA
August 24, 2007