I like fashion. When I am away with my family and retreating on vacation from the mundanes of life, I gravitate to the style shows. One of my favorites is the show What Not to Wear. The show begins with a human project, someone whose life is not reaching its full potential because of the inappropriate way she physically presents herself to the world. The human projects are recommended to the show by family members and friends who love these fashion misfits. They know the hearts of the misfits and are concerned, knowing that many people will not take time to look beyond the physical and really get to know their loved ones well. So they arrange a fashion intervention which reinvents the human project's closet: out with the old wardrobe and in with the new.
The entire experiment begins with two stylists informing the human project of what not to wear and why. After several years of ministry and as I enter my final full year of seminary, I have often thought about the concept of this show. One of the common questions people ask seminary students is "What do you want, or plan, to do after seminary?" For a while, I simply answered with "I don't know," but now I'm beginning to ponder more seriously. Questions of vocation and calling should not be taken lightly. Unfortunately, in the ministry, I observe too many leaders who walk around like fashion misfits—good-hearted people wearing the wrong "clothes."
As a young minister, I don't want to put on the wrong clothes. As a fellow servant in Christ, I encourage Christian leaders to consider which wardrobe or ministry items should be abandoned. The Bible has a term for this principle: pruning. In the gospel of John, Jesus referred to himself as the vine and his father as the gardener. "[God, the Father] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:2, NIV)."
In their various vocations, Christian leaders can bear good fruit. Going from a vocation to a place of true calling, however, requires a divine intervention. Through the "vine and branches teaching," God essentially says we must be willing to let go of some of those old clothes, shoes, hats, scarves, and accessories that may be outdated or simply don't fit us anymore, so we can better see our true selves, accurately present ourselves to others, and allow him to offer us free gifts and create new opportunities in our lives. Trusting God in this way is necessary if we are to embrace our true calling.
Trust the Transition
Embracing one's calling can be risky business, but that's where trust sets in. After giving the lesson on what not to wear and criteria for appropriate fashion pieces, the two stylists set the misfit loose on a shopping spree with free money. The stylists sit behind the scenes and watch the shopping experience on camera. Before long, the misfit is gravitating to her old shopping habits, grabbing for those inappropriate items—these are the familiar items, the ones that make her feel most comfortable. In a fashion state of emergency, the stylists rush in to save the shopping day. They pick items for the new wardrobe and give the fashion misfit a complete makeover, including hair and makeup, before launching her again into the world of relationships and responsibilities.
Our God is much like those stylists. No, he is not simply concerned with the window dressings of our wardrobes, but he is very much concerned that what he puts in us is reflected properly to the rest of the world so that he is most glorified in our work. Sometimes our vocations are comfortable places to cover up. They give us a false sense of security when God is saying, "Trust me. I have your heart. I have a divine calling in mind for you. Not only that, but I'll dress you up and prepare you for it."
Do you trust God well enough to move out of your vocation and into your true calling?
Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a full-time student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC campus (Christian Leadership). She also serves as co-director of the women's mentoring ministry at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is a blogger, a writer, and the founder and president of His Glory on Earth Ministries. You can connect with Natasha through her blog, Twitter, or Facebook.