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Day 18-I am thankful for my own, unique call

November 18, 2013


I recently (as in this past weekend) finished two books, both with the word “Bread” in the title.  Our book club book this month is Bread and Wine, by Shauna Niequist.  In the back of the book, I was looking at her recommended reading list and saw, take this bread by Sara Miles on the list.  I had heard Sara Miles speak with Nadia Bolz-Weber back in September so take this bread quickly went on my library hold list.

In some ways, these books couldn’t have been more different.  Miles was raised by atheist parents and was a journalist/activist in Central America during the civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua.  She became a Christian, more or less by walking into an Episcopal church in San Francisco on Sunday morning with a journalist’s curiousity.  She was invited to take communion, even though she was an atheist, and found her life changed–hungry for more communion.  The book tells her journey to St. Gregory’s church and the creation of a large food bank at the church, which she started because of her hunger for communion.  She wanted to share the table of Jesus with everyone, and to do so, she started a food bank.

Meanwhile, there’s Niequist who was raised by parents who started Willow Creek Community Church (church that now has 7 locations in the Chicago area with over 24,000 attendees on a given Sunday).  She travels internationally for pleasure and speaks at women’s conferences about growing up in Willow Creek.  In Bread and Wine, she talks about the importance of communal meals, but instead of with the poor, with her friends.  Her dinner club makes elaborate meals for each other and she takes the concept of hospitality very seriously.  She says this about Communion:

We experience it [Communion], or at least we could, every time the bread and wine are present–essentially, every time we are fed.  During that last meal, that last gathering of dear friends and disciples, Jesus was inviting us to gather around a table and remember, in church buildings and outside of them, during the Sacrament of Communion and outside of it.

These women both talk about the essence of communion but with very different viewpoints.  I don’t think either one would disagree with each other, they have found their way of serving God and bringing Jesus to others to be different.

After I read these books, take this bread especially, I was moved.  As I drove past one of our nearest church’s, I saw a sign out front that said “Food Pantry this Wednesday.”  “I should volunteer for that,” I thought.  I found many different ways to cook for others, to share the table with them–cooking for the Family Promise program our church is hosting in a couple of weeks (a moving shelter for homeless families), cooking for the cold weather shelter for women in December, volunteering for our neighboring church’s food bank.

All of those are great ideas, and I may act on one of them (or more than one).  However, I started thinking this morning, “Am I Sara Miles?  Am I Shauna Niequist?  Is their calling and action supposed to be my calling and action too?”

I don’t have the passion or organizational skills to develop the food pantry system that Miles did in San Francisco.  I think it’s fabulous and it’s an inspirational story, but I don’t have that in me.  I can’t volunteer at the church expecting to have the experience Miles did.  I’m not Sara Miles.  Likewise, while I as envious for awhile of Niequist’s close dinner club friends, I realized I didn’t really want that.  I didn’t have the space in my life or the energy level to commit to a group dinner every week or two.  I’m not Shauna Niequist.

I’ve thought a lot about what my calling is while reading those books.  I wanted to have a big calling, one you could write books about.  I wanted to be like those book authors, who do great things for Jesus.  I wanted to be Sara Miles, Shauna Niequist, Jen Hatmaker, Shane Claiborne, Nadia Bolz-Weber.  But I’m not.

I’m Melani.  My passion isn’t food–well, it is, but not like Niequist or Miles.  My passion is teaching.  There is nowhere I feel more comfortable than standing up in front of 20 – 25 kids (or even 45 kids like at Bible School).  I’ve thought about returning to teaching, like I’ve written about before.  All the schools I’ve looked into are upper middle class schools, with science labs, computer labs, and Chinese immersion programs.  Their school carnivals raise buckets of money (over $20,000).  I’ve wanted to teach there because it would be the easiest.  The parents are super involved so I wouldn’t need to do things like make my own copies, organize volunteers for said carnivals, and cut out a million little circles (or whatever we need that week).  The after school tutoring would be minimal, as would the Saturday academic camps.  I could still bike my kids to school and their after school care would be minimal.  Teaching in one of those schools would be by far the easiest.

I’ve been wondering this weekend, though, if that’s where I should be.  I loved teaching at my low-income, Title I school.  I had classroom management down (which is often the hardest part of teaching at Title I schools).  I related well to the parents and while tutoring after school burnt me out by the end of each year, I knew it was what the kids needed.  Knowing that my calling is teaching, maybe I need to recognize that while teaching at my kids’ school, or one like it, may be easier and yield better presents, maybe I should look outside our neighborhood.  Maybe I should teach at the schools that aren’t getting 300 applicants for one job.

Volunteering for food related experiences are still something I’m going to look into.  However, I am going to be true to who God created me to be and look for my own calling.  Children were some those that Jesus preached about taking care of, just like he instructed us to feed the poor, visit the prisoners, and take care of those who don’t have enough.  My calling, though less glamorous and not one I’ll ever be able to write a bestselling book about, is still my calling.  That’s the only one I need to heed.  While other’s books may be inspiring, I hope I can remember that they are not a manual of how to do things, they are books on responding to the call they heard.  Niequist and Miles freed me though to accept that the same sacrament (Communion/Eucharist) can be lived out in different ways.  Where ever I  teach, whether it be at Bible School at church, a low-income school, our neighborhood school, (or even my own children at home), I must love those kids with the love of Jesus–unconditionally, appreciating the unique personalities and backgrounds they bring.  If I can do that, I can serve God.

I am thankful that my path doesn’t need to be anyone else’s path–just my own.  We were each made unique, with strengths and flaws, and we are called to love God and others with all of those strengths–and flaws.  I am thankful their is room at the table for me, the teacher, along with the preachers, the prophets, the organizers, and the nurturers.  I am thankful there is a space for us all.  To reference a Jewish story, God will not ask why we were not someone else.  God will only ask us why we were not ourselves.

May we all remember to find our own calling, using our own gifts and passions, and not try to claim someone else’s, no matter how noble or great or Christ-like it may be.

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