Last week I posted a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. I think part of the reason it impacted me so much is because I read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett over Christmas.
The central activity in this [long] book is the building of the Kingsbridge Cathedral. It gave me some appreciation for just how hard it would have been to build the Sistine Chapel or a similar structure.
One of the main characters – Prior Phillip – is a monk who leads Kingsbridge Priory. While he definitely feels called to the life of a contemplative monk, he realizes it’s not for everyone, not even for every monk.
One exchange in particular stood out to me. Phillip is talking with a young monk named Jonathan who is trying to figure out just what kind of monk he should be (one who lives a contemplative life, one who tends the priory’s sheep, or one who sells and trades goods).
The conversation sounds similar to ones I’ve had with friends, or gals I’m mentoring. When we feel stuck about which job we should do next or wondering what our “calling” is. We'll look around and find the "hardest" thing and assume that's what God is calling us to.
The dialogue starts out with Jonathan speaking about what God might be calling him to[i]:
“It’s hard to imagine He has a role cut out for me.” Says Jonathan.
“I can’t think He would have gone to so much trouble with you if He didn’t,” Prior Phillip said with a smile. “However it might not be a grand or prominent role in worldly terms. He might want you to become one of the quiet monks, a humble man who devotes his life to prayer and contemplation.”
Jonathan’s face fell. “I suppose he might.”
Phillip laughed. “But I don’t think so. God wouldn’t make a knife out of wood, or a lady’s chemise of shoe leather. You aren’t the right material for a life of quietude, and God knows it. My guess is that he wants you to fight for him, not sing to him.”
Do you ever feel the same as Jonathan - afraid God is going to make you do something you can’t imagine doing? That in the name of serving God with your life, you’d end up doing something you can’t stand and feel you can’t do well?
I’m not saying that God won’t call you to develop new skills – which could be painful. Or that you won’t ever serve Him in a place that feels uncomfortable to you because of the good you can do there or the character He can develop in you.
But I want to encourage you to look at the hints of God’s calling that He gave you in your personality and preferences – what do you enjoy doing? What are you good at? Could it be that God is calling you somewhere you can use those gifts?
Also, look to God's word -
- In Jeremiah 29:11, it reads: "I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." (NIV)
- James 1:17 says "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (NIV)
- Matthew 7:9 - "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" (NIV)
PS: I found Pillars of the Earth to be a very moving story, but I’ll give some disclaimers before you pick it up. The book includes some graphic and violent details of living in war-torn England in the 1100s – so read it knowing your own sensibilities.
[i] Follett, Ken. The Pillars of the Earth. Penguin, 1990. Page 836.