In Reggie McNeal’s book A Work of Heart he makes this statement about being called,
The call is a mystery. It begins and ends with God, but it loops through a very human individual. It is personal, yet bigger than the person. The call comes out of who we are as well as shaping who we are. It has both being and doing components. The call involves relationship at its core, not just function or task, though it carries clear task components. (p.95).
We run into major roadblocks if we are only concerned about either half of that equation. Those who are focused solely on being tend to end up in ivory towers and monastaries trying to sanitize themselves from society. Those who are solely focused on doing end up drained and empty as their cup pouring exercises do not come out of a solid foundation and relationship with God. How many times do we wonder when God will ever use us or how he will use us but are not very concerned about our “being” in the meantime? Our being is both utilized and refined by the call. When you look at several of God’s prophets you see this dynamic in action.
In Isaiah 6, we have that famous passage where Isaiah is confronted in the temple by God. I call this a confrontation because there is a real tension involved when Isaiah comes face to face with the Almighty. The first thing that jumps out is how holy God is. The angels say, “holy, holy, holy (Holy X 3) is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (6:3). The angels have three sets of wings and the third set reflects a respect for the holy presence of God. With that set of wings they cover their “feet.” This clearly has sexual connotations as the word for feet connotes anything between the waist and the feet. The message is clear that there is a proper and respectful to present yourself when in the presence of the Almighty God. The problem is, Isaiah doesn’t live up to those standards. Through this environment of perfect holiness Isaiah becomes keenly aware of his own sinfulness (a component of his being is out of line with respect to his relationship with God). Notice his response, “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” He acknowledges the fact that he is a sinful man and he knows the result of being sinful in the presence of the Lord almighty has certain consequences – presumably death. The reason these verses are confrontational is because Isaiah’s being is not lined up with God’s being – sinfulness does not match or mesh with holiness. Something has to change. Either Isaiah has to be changed or he has to die. Before he is given something to do there has to be a change in being.
“Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (6:6-7).
Only God can initiate the change in being. He forgives Isaiah’s sin and realigns Isaiah in respect to his relationship with God, thus readying him for the call and the task of doing what God had planned for his life. Once that has occurred Isaiah is ready for what God has to say next,
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.
The call comes to Isaiah. God lays out the task that is at hand but first there had to be a change in being before the doing component could be made known.
How does this play out in our lives? How do we become aware of the divine initiatives that God has for our lives? We find the answer in Romans 12:1-2. You have probably heard these two verses at least 100 times but try to hear them again fresh through the lens of being and doing. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Again, there comes a change in being before there can be an awareness of what it is God would have us do.
The change in being – Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, do not conform (because that would alter our being), instead be transformed (into who God wants you to be)
The change in doing – Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is
In other words, once you have devoted your life to Christ as a living sacrifice a change will take place that can only come from the divine initiative. Just like Isaiah couldn’t cleanse his own lips, we too must rely on the divine initiative in order for the change in being to take place. Once God has started that process in your life his will for you, what he wants for you to do, your purpose, the plan, your call will be clearer than ever.
What in your life is keeping you from understand God’s will for your life?