By Richard Root, Lead Pastor, Mississauga City Baptist Church
I suppose there are those who have always had a clear sense of God’s call in their lives; those who have moved consistently and gently in the direction of God’s purposes in their lives. And then there are those who get caught up by God and find themselves belched up by a whale on some distant beach—welcome to the adventure of God’s will Jonah! My own story falls somewhere in between. I was an engineering student at the University of Waterloo when a whale-sized change abruptly came into to my life. Perhaps I am stubborn, or maybe, a little hard-of-hearing when it comes to hearing God speak. Whatever the reason, God has always had to dislocate me from what I know and love before relocating me where I am meant to be. In my case, the entire trajectory of my life had been in the direction of mathematics and the physical sciences. I was fluent in the language of numbers; words and the mysteries of human relationships, not so much. This was a traumatic time in my life as I was pried out of my comfort zone and took my first, halting steps in a new direction.
“Ok God, you’re gonna have to show me I can do this.” I switched from the engineering program into clinical psychology, much to the derision of my peers. I began to swim in the unfamiliar waters of counselling practices, communications theory and practical theology. Treading water, and not drowning, I cast my Gideon-fleece before God and took on some new responsibilities in chaplaincy and student services at one of the university’s church college campuses. Slowly, with the affirmation of colleagues far wiser than I and the confirmation of my own resistant spirit, a call into vocational ministry began to crystallize.
There have been many days since that I have pondered that multi-year wrestling match with God. Did I get it right? Did I hear correctly? Is this still his purpose for my life. Along the way I have felt a tug into the academy, into denominational work, into something altogether different—maybe following my love for books and fine coffee into the retail sector. However, my love for the ministry of the local church has always prevailed.
As I enter the fourth decade of ministry my understanding of God’s direction has not waned, but it has changed. I no longer see God’s will strictly in terms of vocation. Perhaps God’s primary will for our lives is not what we do, but who we become. It seems to me God opens up multiple pathways for us and invites us into the adventure of following him, not just with a destination in mind, but with the joy of the journey. We’re all called. It’s all ministry… when God is walking with us. Coram Deo!