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Sitting on a Park Bench with God

Answering God’s call begins with letting him tell me who I am

"How does God see you?" Marion asked me.

Her question fell into the wrung-out quiet that wrapped us both in her office. It was the quiet that falls after someone sobs for 15 minutes without pause while sharing her story in fits and gulps. I looked at her through the haze of contact lenses that now needed a good clean.

"How does God see me? " I echoed, a tad dully.

Her question had caught me by surprise. After all, I'd just spent 15 minutes pouring out my anger (I'm tired of having to fight for the right to be administrative pastor), my sadness (I just want my job to be home), my longing. (Could this job not have been the place where I and my calling fit, where I could feel deep peace and a sense of rightness deep in my bones?)

"How does God see you?" she repeated.

I didn't know how God saw me. Was that why I'd finally ended up here, washed up on a counselor's couch, emotions fried, heart hollowed out, body caved in like a bomb had gone off inside my rib cavity? I mumbled something about being tired of always having to fight for the right to do my high-level roles with all the gifts and talents I'd been given. I could not have survived 17 years in the high-stakes world of Canadian ad agencies and not used all the leadership, administrative and, yes, pastoral gifts God had given me. I'd been up for that and been good at it, if the hand-written letters and bonuses direct from the agency's president were to be believed. Pastoral work at my downtown Toronto church had demanded all those leadership, administrative, and pastoral gifts and more: an irrational love for unreasonable people, no matter what. I'd been up for that too.

But now…now I was just tired, and wondering what in Sam Hill I was doing, playing at administrative pastor, just like I'd played at ad agency account director. I was tired of wondering why I could do so much—lead high-level brainstorming meetings, cast vision, preach sermons, write strategies, lead church-based cell groups, create million-dollar business plans that nailed down every detail to the nth degree, run meetings like a seasoned general, sing, mentor a staff, lead worship, write and deliver reports in glossy boardrooms to big-name marketers, play piano, teach, pray with discernment—and still feel like what I'd done meant nothing because, in my gut, I didn't belong anywhere.

I thought I knew who I was, what I'd been put on earth to do, and how to go about doing it. Why, then, did I need to know who God saw when he looked at me? Why did it matter? I dodged the question for at least a month. Then one day I took a deep breath and did what Marion had suggested: I sat on a park bench (figuratively), asked God the question, and began listening to his answers. I've sat on a lot of park benches since and the experience is never easy, perhaps because there's enough arrogance in my sinful heart to make me want to do anything else but sit and listen to God tell me how he feels about me. But choosing to sit and listen has been one of the best leadership decisions I've ever made.

January31, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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