This Saturday I had the great honor of being the commencement speaker for the mid-year graduation at George Fox University (my alma mater BTW). It was very uncharacteristic of me but I wound up writing the whole thing out whee I always just go on outline notes. For some reason this one didn’t come out that way. Anyway, the text of what I wrote is below and we’ll post the video as soon as its available. (though you’ll see i drift from my own notes quite a bit…)
The Keys To Your Calling
For GFU commencement Dec 17, 2011
I remember this moment very clearly though I’m not certain how old I was – probably about ten.
I was lying on my stomach on the living room floor and the family was watching CHiPs.
At some point a commercial came on and I saw something that totally captured me – a computer generated 3D model of a corporate logo spinning in nothingness. It was as if I was a space ship grazing a massive chrome artifact in deep space – and I was so hooked. I made up my mind right there that I wanted to be a computer graphics animator. I told my folks, then and there, what I would be doing with my life and they smiled politely…but not exactly enthusiastically.
Through school plenty of interests flared up and receded, always fascinating in their time, but by graduation time I was still fixed on CG as a career. So I started junior college with that field in mind and I was very excited. One day I sat down for lunch and struck up a conversation with the guy next to me…”what’s your major?” he asked.
“I want to be a computer animator!” I beamed.
He looked me straight in the eye and said “why would you want to do that? That must be the most boring, tedious job I can imagine?”
…I was crushed.
I’d been going so far on pure enthusiasm. I really didn’t know anything about the actual work of CG. For all I knew he was right. And for lack of knowledge I believed him.
..and my spirit died. Or at least went off for a long winter’s nap.
Which brings me to the topic of calling
This is one of the most important and deeply misused concepts in all of Christendom so let me start by by defining some terms…
1. God is infinite right?
2. And we are finite correct?
3. Yet we are all – every one of us – made in His image correct?
And just to be 100% clear, the word says “…man AND woman He created them…” (ladies, don’t ever let the world suggest your callings are any less or different just based on gender)
So how can a finite human being reflect the infinite image of God?
The answer is both simple and profound:
One little piece at a time.
Just like we might look at a child and remark, “she has her father’s eyes” we must each learn to look at the person next to us with the knowledge that we are seeing an eternal creature who is the beloved child of the king of the universe.
As C S Lewis puts it, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”
Now important as it is to recognize the image of god in your neighbor, it’s even more important to recognize that image in yourself.
You are sons and daughters of the living God.
– whether you know it or not.
– whether you like it or not.
– whether you accept it or not.
You are a unique reflection of his image – the Imago Dei – something that was never made before and will never be made again.
But none of us can possibly reflect all of God’s character…nor we’re we meant to.
But rather each of us reflects a particular mix of His characteristics.
You – you bear the compassion of God and bring peace where there is strife.
You – feel his fierce heart beat within your chest, like a stag racing across a high mountain meadow.
You – imbued with joy and laughter as a powerful defense against the darkness and misery of the evil one.
You – bearing the weight of His unquenchable beauty in a way that you need do nothing but stand at your full height and bear witness to His goodness.
Let me be clear about something very, very important.
Your calling is Not a job like doctor, lawyer, nurse or teacher.
It’s not a role like father, wife, or even pastor.
It’s not a competency, something you’re good at, though these can often be clues…
And it is not a task, no matter how noble and powerful that work might be.
All those things are good, but none of them are anywhere large enough to contain the Glory that God has bestowed upon you.
None of those things are eternal – as you are eternal.
Your calling is simply the art of becoming yourself – 100% of the unique reflection of the Imago Dei in you.
It is a path of ever-increasingness and I assure you- it’s the path to true happiness.
But know also that this is not the path of comfort…never forget that this world is under the power of the evil one and if you find your life too often comfortable – it’s likely because you have stepped away from the battle that God is fighting and that you have been invited to join.
Your calling is to bring the full weight of your life and glory to the world…
and let them deal with it.
Note that there are no “high callings” or “low callings.” To be a president is no higher a calling than to be a mother.
There is only The Kingdom and a house full of God’s children.
When Moses asks of the burning bush, “Who are you?” God simply replies “I am.”
Or “I am myself” there is no posing, no coyness, no fear, no false humility. God is always 100% himself and never any more, nor any less. And you are called to do the same thing.
But the word ‘calling’ is a funny thing and can easily be misrepresented, particularly in Christian circles. If mishandled it can sound like a burden or an obligation instead of an opportunity and a joy. Often, in Christian culture we can get the subtle message that there are only a few ‘Christian’ callings like to be a minister, or a missionary or maybe a worship leader. And we can thereby quietly crush the God given passion of an artist, a writer or a counselor. This is the folly of the Pharisees – to too sharply divide the secular from the sacred when God is the God of ALL creation and all our lives.
Another subtle torpedo we experience is the notion that somehow to presume we even have a calling is somehow arrogant. People will start quoting scriptures about vessels made of clay and saying things like, “Oh, my calling is just to get out of God’s way.” Dare I think I have any “glory” and I sound pompous, presumptuous, obscene!
Or…maybe it’s just taking Jesus at His word…
John 17:2 says “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.”
More to the point, just think of all the men and women who have inspired you through your life. Who have enflamed your hearts and passions. Perhaps some of the teachers here at George Fox – these are all simply people who dared to live with their hearts unfurled and their lives, maybe only in that moment or setting, on full display.
You do the world no favors by pretending to be less than you really are for fear of making someone else uncomfortable. Instead, you do best to ask plainly, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” Acts 9:6
Now to return to my story, in 2005 I had a remarkable experience that powerfully reawakened my heart and began to redeem that old dream of computer animation. As odd as it may sound, I find myself now making video games for a living and constantly stunned by the providence of my papa. What’s more – back when I was 10 my vision was focused on myself – it was interesting to me. But today I’m in a position to recognize that God actually has a purpose for that less-than-typically-Christian calling and He’s using to open doors that I would never have dreamed of before. He’s been teaching me how when you truly live with the spirit of adoption and know God as your good and loving papa – you will be unstoppable.
So a few practical thoughts as you move to the next step of your lives.
First you need to understand Story. Not your story but rather the larger story going on around you. Do you see your life as the kind of place where nothing important is really happening and you’re nothing more than a bystander? Or do you understand that this life is a battlefield? Where God and Satan are battling over your heart and truly creation is groaning for the revelation of the sons (and daughters) of God? You see, the story you think you’re living in will determine a lot about how you interpret and understand the things that happen to and around you.
Next is Desire.
Philippians 2:13 says “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the ability to do what pleases him.”
In other words, you’ll find that the thing you truly WANT to do most is the thing God made you to do. Your desires are a powerful clue to what God made you for. As C S Lewis (again) points out in The Weight of Glory, our God seems not to think our desires are too strong but too weak…we fritter about with things like sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us.
That said – there are bad desires too – the desires of the flesh, of the world and the enemy. So this requires wisdom to parse the wheat from the chaff…just don’t make the mistake of thinking all of it is chaff.
Finally, you need to understand your journey. Your individual journey, seen in the context of God’s larger story is the third point of orientation. You will need to learn to lift your head and see what’s going on around you because your journey says a lot abut how God is working in your life at this moment – you just need the eyes to see and interpret it for what it is. Maybe training, maybe rest, maybe practice. You’ll find we can endure incredible difficulty if we understand a purpose or goal behind it yet many believers miss this point as they deal with challenges in their lives.
And never forget – It’s supposed to be fun!
Finally, just because this is a Christian university, I don’t want to assume that everybody here knows my dad. And you need to. What’s more – knowing about him is pointless. I learned a lot about Abraham Lincoln as a history student here but I never met the man. I don’t know his sense of humor or the sound of his voice. It’s not nearly enough to know about God, it’s not enough to get you through this broken world. You need to know his voice, his heart and the particular way he says your name.
That’s what this is all about after all.
Jesus didn’t go through all he went through so you could go to church. He came so you could be free. And not simply free from sin and death, though of course that’s part of it, he came that you could be free to live in His house and be the glorious person you were made to be.
May the lord bless you and keep you…