“The mountains are calling, and I must answer.” –John Muir
I hear lots of voices calling my name, pulling me in all directions. The mountains are certainly calling, always calling. Trees and hills call to me. Their calls echo in my ears all year until I get my week off, and I must answer the call by traveling to a place far from Kansas. I have to go and climb a mountain and walk through a forest, and then I can ignore that call for a while.
Higher education calls to me like a ghost from my past. It calls and says, “You really like schooooool… Hebrew is funnnnn… Archaeooooologyyyy…” Some days I start investigating PhD programs online, and then that day is lost to dreaming about things I’d like to study and places I’d like to study and… maybe someday. For now, I hang up on those calls.
And then there are the sins that are always calling to me. Pride calls the loudest on the days when I am dreaming about PhD programs. It builds me up, tells me what I want to hear, tells me that I’m smart and a scholar and deserve to follow my dreams, and I could go on, but I would only embarrass myself more than I already have.
Other sins call as well. Envy calls when I see churches that are bigger than mine and pastors who have more to work with than I do. Lust calls when I feel alone. Sloth calls, well, all the time really, since it tends to call when I’m not sure what to do next. It always knows what to do. It starts with an N and ends in an ETFLIX.
God calls. He calls me to Argonia. He still calls me there today as he called me there three years ago. Some days I’m not sure why. Some days I am discouraged by myself or my church or my town, and on those days it is my calling that is my anchor. I could not be a pastor if I didn’t have this overwhelming calling from God to be one; I couldn’t be a pastor in Argonia if I didn’t feel overwhelmingly called by God to this time and place and situation.
Yet even this calling can sometimes obscure the one calling on my life that really matters, the only calling that really matters in any of our lives. At the end of the day, it is not the calling of the mountains or of classrooms or of vocation or of anything else that I must answer. There is only one call that I must answer, and it is Christ’s call to come and follow him.
As strange as it may sound, it is easy to answer all these other callings I hear without answering this primary calling. Those other callings are fun. Even the call to ministry can be fun if it makes you feel like you have an important purpose. But the call to follow Christ is not fun. It’s a call not just to live as he lived, but also to die as he died.
Bonheoffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man and his call.”
That is my calling, through which I must answer all others. And it makes me wonder: I have come to Argonia… But have I come to die?
“Since Christ embraced the cross itself, dare I
His image, th’ image of His cross, deny?
Would I have profit by the sacrifice,
And dare the chosen altar to despise?
It bore all other sins, but is it fit
That it should bear the sin of scorning it?”
-John Donne, “The Cross”