Our True Calling

Every once in a while, I like to pour myself a bowl of cereal and relax on the couch to watch some sports on TV.

Who am I kidding? I do that pretty much every night and would gladly order cereal as a meal in a restaurant if it were socially acceptable.

I love cutting up pieces of a banana or a few strawberries over the cereal to enrich my experience, but occasionally, I’ll grab a bag of raisins from the pantry instead and share some with our kids as a special treat.

The boys love raisins and our little snack always takes me back to my childhood, remembering when I would eat a few of those tiny red boxes of Sun-Maid raisins.

But when I grab a handful of raisins and sprinkle them over my cereal, I can’t help but notice how these little dried fruits used to be far more exciting.

Raisins 3Indeed, something so small and unimpressive was once so plump and powerful in the form of a grape.

A mighty grape, so strong and crisp, filled with sweet juice and so rich with taste, now reduced to a shriveled shell of itself.

Once firm and crunchy, joined by its brethren as a cluster, now withered and weak, left to fend for itself in a plastic bag.

It was during a recent class lesson when I was speaking with my students about Moses and his call from God that I recognized we as humans are created to be grapes, but sometimes act like raisins instead.

Moses, of course, led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land.

Regarded as a hero and one of the most impactful figures in Judaism and Christianity, Moses is admired for his courage and leadership.

And yet, he displayed immense worry and self-doubt when he first encountered God in the form of a burning bush, selected to direct God’s Chosen People out of bondage.

Lacking confidence (Exodus 3:11) and seemingly using his struggle with speech as an excuse to try to convince God not to choose him (Exodus 4:10), Moses adamantly aimed to avoid God’s call for him (Exodus 4:13).

Imagine, someone destined for greatness being so reluctant and unwilling to fulfill his vocation.

So many others in the Bible also expressed hesitation, unworthiness and even refusal when given a divine mission, such as Queen Esther and the prophets Jeremiah and Jonah, to name a few.

Grapes & RaisinsA few thousand years later, are we not like this still today?

Created by God to be strong grapes, do we not cower like raisins when called by God to live our best in His image?

When asked a question in class, how many students refuse to raise their hand to offer an answer, dreading any judgment by their peers if they respond incorrectly?

How many of us allow our fear of failure to take hold when presented with an opportunity for a role in a school play, or a spot on a sports team or in a leadership camp?

Or what about turning down a side hallway at the last minute instead of approaching that guy or girl and asking them out on a date because we are afraid of being rejected?

What about those of us who prefer to stay in the status quo rather than apply for a job promotion or go back to school to improve our qualifications?

How many of us decline a chance to travel to a far-off country or volunteer in a group home because of the different culture or environment we would encounter?

God made us to flourish and realize His plan for us, not to flounder by shying away from our full potential.

Because of this, we should never feel inadequate or fearful, believing we do not deserve blessings or opportunities God introduces to us. In truth, God has planned fortune for us since the very beginning, knowing we are worth it. (Jeremiah 1:5)

So no matter our flaws or reservations, let us remember to be secure in our faith, knowing our Lord will always walk at our side. (Matthew 28:20)

Relying on God and believing He leads us at all times, we can rest assured that, even if stretched beyond our comfort zone, God can and will use us as instruments for His ultimate plan of goodness. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Grapes 1Living like this – as the grapes we were intended to be – we will undoubtedly bear great fruit and encourage the same for others.

And the Answer is…

When reading stories and saying prayers with our son Isaac before bedtime, every once in a while he and I will watch a short program on our tablet computer.

My wife and I do very well to limit his screen time and engage his learning in other ways, but a little TV watching or electronics use here and there can also serve to entertain and educate him.

One night not long ago, I was trying to find a children’s show for us to watch together as part of our pre-bedtime routine.

After Isaac decided what show he wanted to watch, I began to locate it on our tablet, only to run into some computer delays.

Growing frustrated after waiting a couple of minutes for the program to load, I chose instead to show him some pictures and videos of family and friends saved on the computer.

That, too, proved to be ineffective, as the screen just froze up after a few moments.

At that point, I was turning somewhat agitated and wanted to prepare something quickly in order to keep Isaac from becoming upset.

So, I resorted to shutting down the tablet and restarting it. After all, a simple reboot would do the trick, right?

As it turned out, the tablet didn’t respond that night, leaving me to think quickly and come up with another plan.

Fortunately, my Daddy imagination charm was in full effect, so once bedtime reading and prayers concluded, I enticed Isaac into listening to a special story. I built it up with the greatest enthusiasm possible, convincing him this hilarious tale would be one for the ages.

Watching his facial expressions and seeing him hang on my every word with both interest and excitement, I led Isaac on a creative journey, all the while feeling exhilarated and proud to have such bonding with my little man.

As I gave him his nighttime blessing, I couldn’t help but think this whole experience wouldn’t have happened had it not been for our tablet freezing up earlier.

answered-prayer-2It was in that moment I thought of God’s responses when we call to Him and how He always replies to our prayers and needs.

While we may sometimes not get what we ask for, we must realize God always answers our prayers and never says no.

If one stops to consider it, we can see how God will always answer us using one of three responses – yes, not yet or I have something better in mind.

For instance, sometimes our prayer request is granted almost immediately.

Praying before a final exam for a feeling of calm and confidence about our studies can lead us to a successful performance and grade. Asking God to help us remain focused when going for our driver’s permit test can help us obtain our license.

Other times, our prayer is fulfilled after several weeks or months.

Wanting to date a particular person, this individual may not immediately be interested until getting to know us much more and appreciating more about us in the process. Or, perhaps there are matters in their lives of which we are not aware, and only when life settles for them can they be in the right frame of mind for there to be a mutual fit.

Our patience and persistence in prayer could be tested even further, discovering our prayer is answered after a few years.

Unsuccessful in an interview for that dream job, we might simply require more experience before being fully qualified. Maybe the company first needs to alter its business planning structure prior to hiring us, or the original candidate leaves for another position. Such situations can certainly swing opportunity’s door wide open again.

What we could also learn when praying is that, while God will not always provide us exactly what we seek, He may ultimately give us what we desire five- or tenfold.

Pinning our hopes so strongly on a particular college or university can be devastating if we receive a rejection letter in the mail. Yet, it is only after we graduate with honors from a different institution – where we wound up meeting our future spouse with whom we are blessed to have children and live in a comfortable home – that we realize it was all part of God’s plan.

answered-prayer-1No matter the example, it is important to have faith in God, believing without worry He knows us and will grant us all that our heart wishes and needs. (Matthew 6:25-26)

Having this certainty in what has yet to happen is by no means a cinch, and yet, we are called to be hopeful that our Lord listens and attends to the voice of our prayer. (Hebrews 11:1 & Psalm 66:19)

I once heard it said, “God does not bend His plan to fit our preference. We must bend our will to fit His.” Now, these words may be far easier to say than to live, and yet surrendering to God is crucial in order for Him to work His mission for our overall good.

It is in so doing that we may grow to be less frustrated and agitated, and more joyful and exhilarated.