Twelve years ago this week I sat at the International Wesleyan Youth Conference in Charlotte, NC with my rear end firmly planted in my seat and my feet rooted to the ground beneath my chair, holding on for dear life as a torrent of teens flooded past on their way to the front to answer a call to be ministers. I was determined not to be swept away in that flood. I wasn’t going to be a pastor.
If I remember right, the call that day was not just for those of us who felt called to full time ministry, but for everyone who would commit to being ministers in whatever career they ended up in. But I didn’t budge. I couldn’t. I knew it wouldn’t work to bargain with God, to go forward and tell him I’d be a minister in some other field. I knew what he wanted from me, and I knew that if I gave an inch he’d have a mile. And so I sat like a rock in a stream.
The waters receded, and I went home from Charlotte. I thought I had survived, thought that my rock would hold, buried deep in my stubbornness and fear. And hold it did, for the next three years, but God never stopped calling. He relentlessly plunged my rock beneath the flood of his will until finally all my arguments eroded and I was launched into the flood at last.
I’ve been lost in the flood ever since, often floundering, often half-scared out of my wits, but slowly learning that the God who called me won’t let me drown. Even when I’m lost in the flood of his will, he is my Solid Rock in the flood. As the old song says, “His oath, his covenant, his blood / Support me in the whelming flood / When all around my soul gives way / He then is all my hope and stay.”
I’ve never depended on God more than I have as a pastor. It has taught me my need for a Solid Rock, but even more it has created in me a longing for that Rock. I have seen more clearly than ever the sinking sand around me and the sinking sand within me. Today the sand scares me more than the flood, because God is not in the sand. He is in the flood, and so I lash myself to the Rock in the flood.
I don’t know how many of those teens in Charlotte are pastors today. I don’t know how many of them are ministers in other capacities, as teachers or counselors or parents or business owners. All I know is that one who said ‘No!’ to God that day has since said ‘Yes!’ a thousand times over. I’m so glad I did. I’m so glad that God didn’t listen to my answer, but that he got the final word.
This week, twelve years after I sat and said I wouldn’t be a pastor (and especially not a youth pastor), I returned to the same conference, this time in Indianapolis instead of Charlotte, this time as a pastor to teens (among other people) instead of a teen trying not to be a pastor. And it was good, because it was God’s will, and his will is so very good.
I share this to let you know that it’s never too late to say ‘Yes’ to God, whatever it is that he is calling you to do. It’s never too late to make him your Solid Rock. And it’s worth it. The Rock is worth it.