light-unshakable asked a question:
Hey Mr. Park, I have to say I’m always inspired by your thoughts/ideas/writings. I’m wondering if you have any advice or encouragement on following your calling. I have a few things I’m interested in, but not sure what will end up blooming from it all. Thanks! -Steven
sjpark11 asked a question:
Hey Pastor Joon! I read some of your replies to people’s questions and really liked all of your responses. I was wondering if you could give me some advice! I’ve been thinking about my future and what God has planned for me. I have a heart for ministry, worship-leading, and sports therapy. So, I don’t know if I should go into Ministry, either part-time or full-time, or pursue the career that I desire. How do I decide which path to choose knowing that it is in God’s will? Thank you so much!
Hey there Steve and John, thank you for trusting me with these huge questions about your future. While I can’t hope to give you a total solid answer, I can do my best to point the way and to jumpstart your own process. As always, please feel free to skip around. I’ll be throwing you guys a prayer.
1) God’s Will is not just about what you do, but about who you’re becoming.
This probably sounds like a cute cliche on a cat poster, but really: Decide who you want to be before you decide what you want to do.
When you’re about to decide on your college or career or spouse or city or home, always ask, Is this leaning into who I want to become? Or even bigger, Who does God want me to be in where I’m going?
And at the same time, don’t hesitate to keep serving, keep giving, keep trying new things. We don’t need to wait for a fully fleshed out answer of your identity, and I don’t want to paralyze you with such a daunting question all at once. You don’t have to figure out your life in a day. If you’re really very lost, then try everything. Out of your heart emerges what you do, and what you do with your hands will work its way into your heart too.
2) Consider everything you’ve done before and connect the dots.
Any time someone is wondering about God’s specific calling on their life, I always ask them about what they’re already doing. Very often, God will call you to do more of what you’re already doing and have done.
It’s very rare that someone wakes up one day and says, “I want to be an artist” or “I want to be a pastor” or “Here we go, rodeo clown school.” God sets up a long series of opportunities and situations in which we enjoyed a particular gifting or we ruled out other ones.
Maybe you love to draw and you’ve filled up tons of sketchpads and suddenly the art teacher put you in an honors class. Maybe you love dancing and you practice in the mirror and out of nowhere you tried out for a group and got in. Maybe you like watching CSI and that ER reality show where people get stabbed, and you’re attracted to the medical world.
Now sometimes God does the humorous thing here and calls you into an absolutely terrifying prospect. A lot of my calling (as a pastor) requires me to speak in public, and I have stage fright and suffered from speech impediments. But God kept opening doors to lead the praise band on Sundays and teach Bible Studies and oversee small groups, and when I got the calling to be a pastor, it was scary but also just right.
You might be called to something you could never have possibly imagined: but it will somehow fit just like a glove. We often see God’s Will in hindsight, and it’ll make sense when you look back at how God worked the whole time. Your previous history of opportunities will often inform your future more than your current ability.
A side-note: Going into ministry is a very, very difficult calling, and I can’t ever sugarcoat how hard it will be. No one just “likes” their way into ministry. For more on that, here’s my tag on seminary.
3) Ask around.
I think that asking everyone else for your own vision is not the best idea: but it’s always good to ask your pastor or mentor or a wise mature friend about what to do.
Talk things out. Especially touch on your own fears, anxieties, and insecurities. Talk about your own selfish vanities. Many of us are afraid to admit, “I want to be filthy rich. I want the fame. I want the glory.” But this urge for validation exists inside all of us. When you open up your heart, with both the pretty and the ugly, then you’ll actually be able to more wisely navigate your own narrative. You’ll start to hear yourself and realize, “Yeah, that’s kind of immature. And no, maybe I don’t want that so badly. And this thing I’m afraid of but I know will be awesome: I really want that, no matter how hard it is.”
4) Ask God.
I know this is obvious. But I think it’s so very obvious that we turn this part into a checklist, and we make God into an assistant who’s here to help with My Agenda.
So let’s try an experiment. Let’s pretend for a second that you are God.
Don’t cuss me out quite yet. Let’s say You’re in Your infinitely vast throneroom in Heaven with all the six-winged lion-headed angels singing to you every second of their existence, and you know everything there is possibly to know, and you divide the galaxies and orbits and stars and clouds and skies to this tiny little meat-popsicle named insert your tiny little name here.
And your squishy 3 lb. brain human brain is wrestling with this grand intimidating idea called the future, because you live inside this weird unrolling ocean called time. And your spongy fleshy body has maybe just a few breaths left before you’re off into the afterlife of eternity.
With that ten seconds of your one life you have on this small speck of dirt called earth: What would You tell yourself to do? How would You speak something into the world through you that no one can else can do the same as you? How will You tell yourself to use your bare ten seconds of life on this tiny planet?
Now this is just an experiment, and it’s easy to tell yourself what you want to hear. But imagine if you actually heard from God. From the one who knows you better than you know you, and will straight up tell you the truth with zero b.s. Imagine hearing from someone infinitely smarter than you who could smash your agenda to pieces. Would you really want to know about that? I mean it’s a rather huge scary audacious proposition, if you think about it. Because for me, it would be easier to say, “I didn’t know you wanted me to martyr myself in Uganda” than to actually pursue this all-knowing God with my blink of a life in the ocean of eternity.
So dare to ask God what He really wants you to be and to do. Dare to confront your own worst fears about failure and inadequacy: because God will plunge through that like a freight train and pull you into His very best. It won’t be easy, no: but it will be life.
Please know that God’s vision for you will feel too big. Whatever God calls you to do will require the very power of God. I don’t mean that God will necessarily ask you to be a martyr in Uganda, though He could. I don’t mean we’re all called to be radical missionaries and urban inner-city ministers, though we could. And of course, I don’t mean that changing diapers or sweeping floors or collecting garbage is any less important than serving the homeless or loving on orphans. This is not about chasing the cliche of epic heroic romanticized Super-Christian.
But what I do mean is that we often don’t seriously ask God what His true calling is for our lives. Then we shrink ourselves into bite-sized manageable goals that require little faith and little work. We all like safety. Whether you become the CEO of a corporation or a pizza delivery boy, we can use our particular gifting to leave a God-sized impact in our chosen corner of the universe. Whether that means donating Bibles to China or serving coffee to your co-workers everyday or signing up to be a foster parent, there is no shortage of creative ways to be the hands and feet of Christ. There are lives to build, stories to make, laughter to create, truth to be told, and hearts to be mended there.
A job doesn’t have to be a clock-in clock-out affair. Your field can be the grid in which you infuse the gracious life-breathing aroma of God by your uniquely woven history, in an overarching mosaic of daily choices where you’ll look back and be able to say, “I was part of something real on that planet called earth.”
Ask Him. Read Scripture over and over, get to a private place, and ask Him. Talk things out. Time is short and your life is once. You’ll find that the you that God wants you to be is the you that you always wanted.