The Call

There have been many people, this past week, who have asked me, “How was camp?”  The rules of my answer obey that of any trip; most people don’t actually want to hear your stories, they just want to know that you had a good time.  This doesn’t mean they don’t like you, but it is the case that you should always pay attention to how you’re being asked about a trip before launching into a breakdown of all the things that have happened to you.  A very wise friend of mine taught me this difference, and it’s saved me from a lot of long and mildly awkward conversations.

That being said, I’m truly grateful for the handful of people who have asked and genuinely wanted to know what happened, patiently sitting with me for an hour or more as I detoxed the experience.  (Interpreter and Mr. Great-Heart—a man I’ve known for some time now but hasn’t yet made it into these discourses; he was one of my deans at the camp and I could not have made it through without his support—come instantly to mind.)  I won’t say that camp was an utterly life-changing experience, because I came back to my life and it hadn’t changed that much.  I got a job (praise the Lord!) and am going through orientation for that, which is a difference.  (A welcome one, for sure.)  But life didn’t really change a lot.

I did.

I started this blog a year ago to explore the possibilities of being called (Called?) to some form of ministry rather than a life of “pure” academics as I had planned.  I could never have dreamed all that has happened in the intervening time, and have roughly the same reaction to it as I have to camp—if I had truly understood what I was getting myself into, I would never have had the guts (insanity) to take the first step.

Camp taught me two things:
1)  Serving to the loss of yourself is stupid.  Not serving at all to avoid this possibility, however, is also stupid.  It is not all about me, but then, it’s not all about other people, either; God loves me enough that I don’t have to be anything or have all of the answers in order to be helpful and in His service.  I don’t know that I can ever fully explain to you, Reader, what a freedom this realization is.  Just because I am not everything doesn’t mean I am nothing.
2)  I have no dignity, and that is perfectly fine, because God loves me anyway.  (Seeing a theme here?)  I am, by nature, a somewhat fastidious and rather proud human being; at camp, I ate dinner with no hands, flopped down slip ‘n’ slides, got pushed around in a mudpit, hopped like a madman in the highly energized morning worship, danced like a fool in the dance class I taught, and generally abandoned the idea that I was ever going to be anything other than totally lost to the moment so that my middle schoolers could feel safe enough to do the same.  The freedom in being whoever you are is actually pretty incredible.

Releasing your pride like that is something else.  And you know what?  I don’t want it back.  I like being able to look like an idiot and not worry about whether people will still love me.  Granted, I’m not going to go tangoing down West Main any time soon, but I will dance when the Spirit moves me, clap when I feel the rhythm, and laugh hysterically when something is that funny.  Because God loves movement and laughter and sadness and expression, and everyone else can kind of bugger off.

I have been so wrapped around the axle of what The Call means that I’ve totally missed all of its complication.  One of the speeches (sermons?) given the first or second day of camp included a reference to us counselors as people who had answered the call to be there, to serve in this way.  It was a facepalm of obvious moment to me to hear that; yes, we were answering that call to serve, however reluctantly.  That was ministry, and all of the other places I work that cause me to be at church 5 days out of 7 are answers to some call, and that is ministry.  And this ministry is not less or more than Professional Ministry, because we can’t all be God’s hands—some of us have to be the elbows, or the left shin.  And that’s okay, as long as each day brings a new readiness to serve in whatever ways come to us—and not to serve in ways we don’t feel equipped.  I actually turned down such a service opportunity this week because I knew that I wasn’t ready for it, and that is also hearing the call in all its tones.

The dance class I taught spent the week learning a piece I had choreographed to Regina Spektor’s The Call, because humor abounds in the unwatched places of my life.  And it was awesome to see my gals perform it, to watch their hard work pay off and see how proud they were of themselves—and how proud I was of them.  It was also pretty cool to hear this song and realize that, wherever I am, He is there when I call…and I’m tired of pretending that I have any real objection to being there when He calls.

Much prayer will be appreciated as I head into this final year of grad school, Reader, because taking these lessons into a life that wants me to be something different—in which I want me to be something different—is going to be bloody difficult.  But I can’t keep saying that God happens in the church sphere of my life; He is in all of it, and I want Him there, and I will follow Him even to the grimy ridiculousness of middle school camp because I know He will never abandon me there.


After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.”  Then he said it a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.”  (John 21:15-17, MSG)

9 thoughts on “The Call

  1. […] will be no post next week, Reader, because I am going back into the world of camping to act as counselor once more with middle schoolers.  Prayer is most welcome for me and how much […]


  2. […] and I have a particular love in my heart for the main Newsboys song because I first heard it at camp and it was intense.  The biggest thing that stuck with me, though, is that at the end of the film […]


  3. […] both.  But I’ve been doing a lot of stuff with teens in the last year or so—I was a camp counselor last summer, I was a mentor for a middle schooler, I’m going to be on a team of such in the […]


  4. Knowing you, I felt pretty sure that the camp experience would be revelatory. I look forward to sharing the journey with you this next year!


    • Wait, what? Are you going to be a counselor next year? I would come back for that, most definitely.


      • Oops! Let me rephrase that. I meant, “I look forward to reading your blog this next year as you continue to tell us about your journey.” I should have started a new paragraph. Sorry to run the two thoughts together. But just for the record, I have neither the faith nor the patience to be around so many children and/or teenagers at once. I’m quickly becoming a crotchety old man, didn’t you know that?


        • Hahaha, I wondered! Dang, and here I was envisioning all sorts of adventures…sigh.

          Becoming? You’ve always been a crotchety old man. I imagine you were when you were a kid, too, which is probably why we’re friends.


  5. Crystal says:

    Pilgrim, I smile to think of you dancing with middle schoolers. Good for you! And being lost in the moment can be an awesome, God-connected experience also. I once listened to a sermon where the pastor spoke of how she was called to the set-apart ministry, and her journey to preaching. The woman sitting next to me is my mother’s age and has a daughter my age who is a preacher. She looked at me when it was over and said, ‘oh, you should be a minister also’. I was floored. I responded that I am a minister, every day. That the work I do as a social worker is not called ‘set-apart-ministry’ but that I approach it as such. That the Creator is in the work that I do, just as She inspires the work of the preacher, that I am not called to be hands, but to be a little toe for stabilization. It was an eye-opening moment for me that sometimes the mentors around us can also be reminded to increase the scope of what they see as ‘being called to ministry’. Keep dancing.


    • My dearest Hopeful, how much I miss you! I’m delighted you’re where you are (and it’s been fun following your photos), but I do miss your quiet brilliance. I can honestly say I’ve never thought of you as a professional minister, but you do have so much ministry in your life, especially with your social work. Thank you for (almost) always understanding these things.


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