Here’s something radical: neither you nor I need to be Billy Graham, Mike Pilavachi, or your super-evangelist of choice. The only people who were called to be those guys were Billy Graham, Mike Pilavachi, and your super-evangelist of choice. I tell myself that, and yet there’s still a niggling wobbly-tooth feeling that makes me feel intimidated by their success, rather than merely grateful for how God has blessed them, and His world through them. We are our own unique brew of giftings and flaws that means responding to someone else’s call, or wishing your vocation was different, is like using chocolate for a teapot. Sure, it might taste great at first, but you’ll very quickly have a sticky mess on your hands… and round your mouth. Our calling is always the same: be faithful with what you have. See, in the Parable of the Talents, the servant who was given five returns five more and the one given two returns two more. But the master’s response is word-for-word the same: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25: 21, 23). God is equally delighted with both, because of their desire to please Him.
The Apostle Paul wasn’t known for mincing his words or diluting his expectations of how Christians could live when empowered by the Spirit. But, when he is writing to the Thessalonian church about what makes a godly life, he doesn’t tell them to plant mega-churches or a quota of conversions to make. Rather, it’s all surprisingly simple: “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Wherever we are in life- the friends and family we have, the work we do, our churches, our strengths- that sphere of influence is God’s blessing on us. Love that, Paul seems to be saying, honour that which God has given you already, rather than hankering after a gift-receipt.
The beauty of this was brought home to me this morning as I read Kayla Mueller’s letter to her family. A 26-year old aid-worker, taken hostage by ISIS in August 2013, and confirmed dead yesterday- how much she might have longed with all her heart to be anywhere else. In all honesty, I feel knee-shakingly weak at the thought of the sorrow of her situation. But while I wish for God to guide me more clearly, and along the way probably forget to thank Him for opportunities I already have to serve Him, she was stunningly faithful with all that she had: a pen, paper, and her relationship with her cellmates. The result moved me to tears.
“Everyone, If you are receiving this letter it means I am still detained but my cell mates (starting from 11/2/2014) have been released.
I have asked them to contact you + send you this letter. It’s hard to know what to say. Please know that I am in a safe location, completely unharmed + healthy (put on weight in fact); I have been treated w/ the utmost respect + kindness.
I wanted to write you all a well thought out letter (but I didn’t know if my cell mates would be leaving in the coming days or the coming months restricting my time but primarily) I could only but write the letter a paragraph at a time, just the thought of you all sends me into a fit of tears.
If you could say I have “suffered” at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness.
I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else … + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall.
I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it.
I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another … I miss you all as if it has been a decade of forced separation.
I have had many a long hour to think, to think of all the things I will do w/ Lex, our first family camping trip, the first meeting @ the airport. I have had many hours to think how only in your absence have I finally @ 25 years old come to realize your place in my life.
The gift that is each one of you + the person I could + could not be if you were not a part of my life, my family, my support.
I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty, if there is any other option take it, even if it takes more time. This should never have become your burden.
I have asked these women to support you; please seek their advice. If you have not done so already, [REDACTED] can contact [REDACTED] who may have a certain level of experience with these people.
None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me.
I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes. I wrote a song some months ago that says, “The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left …”
aka-The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength.
Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God’s will we will be together soon.
All my everything, Kayla”.
Her strength makes me feel even smaller than I do when I think of ‘big-name-Christians’, because she seems so like me, and so the difference between how we spent the last 18 months respectively feels gargantuan. So, the fact that I can trust that in heaven there’ll be no difference between us, that I will be able to hold this sister whom I never met, and neither she, nor Martin Luther, nor the Apostle Paul will make me feel inadequate, brings home the ridiculous unmerited abundance of God’s grace.