Until the end of 2019 I had been doing a very privileged job for 16 years. My job involved helping people to discover how God was calling them and how they might respond to that calling. I even got paid for doing it…
What we noticed in our team was that the busy time of the year for people coming forward to explore their calling was September and October. We realised that people needed the break provided by the summer holidays in order to listen to God and work out the implications of God’s calling: How to respond, what about the timing, what impact will responding have on my life and my family, what help do I need to respond to God’s calling?
Now many of us have an enforced break – not a holiday, of course, but space and time that we may not welcome at first. Even those who are working so hard to provide and care for the rest of us during this crisis cannot fill any spare time left to them with meals out or sport or trips to the cinema with friends. We are forced to stop. Is that because God is calling us to something new, and wants us to stop and listen, to let go of the noise of modern life and listen to what he is calling us to? He is, after all, ‘the one who calls you,’ as Paul describes him in 1 Thessalonians 5 v.24. One of our most familiar images of Jesus is of him calling his disciples by the seashore. God is always calling.
God may be calling in the big picture, calling whole nations and communities to new ways of living, he may be calling his church, nationally or locally, to some fresh way of worshipping and serving him, he may be calling us personally to take some new step in his service. He is calling us to new ways of being. We now have time to listen to God, time to focus on the nature of his calling to us, time to work out what will need to change in our lives if we are to respond obediently to his calling, time to work out what help we shall need in order to fulfil his calling.
Some people get frustrated when they hear God calling if they can’t ‘get on with it’ straight away.’ But, when God calls, he also calls us to prepare in the appropriate way for the moment when we can take the next step. Now we also have time to think and pray about the preparation God wants us to put in place.
So, I am convinced God is calling us at this time. Where are we? Listening, responding, focusing on the details of that calling, working out what needs to change if we are to be obedient to that calling, asking who can help us fulfil his calling, starting to prepare? This is not empty time, however frustrated and fed up we shall all be at times; it is not empty time because it is filled with the voice of the God who calls.