“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”— Martin Luther King Jr.
Though the sentiment should hit home for most, this is a tough pill to swallow. I might be preaching to myself here, but it would be a daily battle to pursue the call of street sweeper with excellence. Maybe that’s a heart issue I need to work on, or maybe that’s because that’s not something I feel called/appointed to do vocationally. Either way, I know there are vocations that all of us have probably had similar reactions to. Especially for those of us who are already in those vocations constantly fighting off the anxiety-ridden self-loathing reflection of, “this is not what I’m supposed to do.”
This kind of thinking is understandable and arguably expected depending on the circumstance. Be that as it may, I believe that the worldview fueling this thought process is the result of “the American Dream” culture we have adopted. In so doing, we miss the divine appointment adjacent to calling… Let’s look at Jeremiah:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” —Jeremiah 1:5
When we think about the phrase “God’s appoints,” we tend to associate it with the moniker of a divine authority figure tasked with the life or death responsibility of filling the call lest incurring failure to God’s mission for the church. The problem with this is that it misses the meaning and intent of the term “appoint”. In the Hebrew text, the verb used here for “appoint” ( נתן ; i.e. na-tayn) is translated “give”. In Jeremiah’s context, God gave him the office of prophet, which is more than a responsibility or calling. It is quite literally a gift. The interchangeability between “appoint” and “give” is fairly simple in this verse, but this is also the same word used in 1:9 when God says, “I have given [most translations read put] my words in your mouth,” and in 1:15 God speaks of the Northern kingdoms and families “will give [most translations read set up] their thrones in the gates of Jerusalem.” The vocation of the prophet was a gift from God; the words Jeremiah spoke were a gift from God, and the thrones of earthly kingdoms were gifts from God. Looking at it in this light might change our heart towards the vocation of street sweeper…
I bring this up as a means for keeping our attitudes in check with where we’re at in life. Maybe our plans for the present were different. Maybe God’s call on our lives does not align with what we desire. Maybe we should spend less time trying to come up with answers for these questions and spend more time on our attitudes toward such. Are you viewing your job as a gift from God or as a burdensome stepping stone to your vision for your future? Do we rely on God and the gifts he has given us to pursue our callings and convictions or do we walk the less-fulfilling road of the “self-made” struggle? God is good and has graced us with gifts that are resources in pursuing our individual callings; let us be aware with thanksgiving and gratitude for such provisions. In close, I will leave you with this quote from St. Augustine:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.
Oh Lord, give me chastity, but do not give it yet.
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
Patience is the companion of wisdom.
It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.
Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.
Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.
Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.”