I remember the first time I was called in to a hospital room where the patient, an elderly gentleman, was dying and his family was, understandably, in crisis. I was doing my student chaplaincy at Unity Medical Center in Fridley, and while the man lying unconscious in the hospital bed was around 80 years old, his health crisis had come on suddenly and was unexpected.
I was on call that day, and when paged down to his room, I stopped by my supervisor’s office and let him know what was going on. I’m guessing that he could sense my anxiety. He simply said “This is why you’re here. Go down and do what God has called you to do. Just be with them.” And he sent me on my way. I was…terrified.
I wish I could say that his words calmed me. But my nervous-meter continued to rise as I rode the elevator and walked to the room. But then something odd happened. I knocked quietly and opened the door. As I entered, and looked around the room at the family, with their faces tear-streaked, the anxiety and nervousness I felt evaporated, and I felt completely at-home. “Hi, I’m Chaplain Todd. Thanks for calling me to come down. So tell me what’s going on…”
In that time, at that place, I belonged; and I had no fear. It was an amazing experience; one that shaped my understanding of vocation, call and the presence of God.
This last week I was at the annual gathering of “Senior pastors of Large Lutheran Congregations.” The speaker was Dr. Reggie McNeal. He was amazing. I learned a ton listening to him and interacting with my colleagues from all over the country.
While he shared a lot of wisdom, one sentence in particular really stood out to me. He said:
“Imagine the confidence God has, to put you in leadership at this time and in this place.”
When I heard this, I had to write it down…and then I re-read it a couple of different times. These were incredibly freeing words to hear.
There are always moments when I feel unsure, out of my league…way over my head. There are moments when my own sense of confidence feels like it might fail me. But at these moments, Dr. McNeal reminds me that I am focusing on the wrong thing. It’s not about my own sense of confidence. Rather, it’s about God’s sense of confidence in me. God calls us to where we belong. That was true that day in that hospital room, and it’s true every day at church, at home, or wherever I find myself. It’s not a matter of trusting in my own abilities (which will, as often as not, disappoint me). Rather, it’s about trusting in God’s sense of confidence.
Can you imagine the confidence God must have in you and I…to do what God has called us to do? When we look at the problems in the world around us…when we look at the tasks we need to do…when we look at God’s mission and all that’s involved…and we realize that God called us…us…to be here to fulfill that mission. It’s hard to believe. And yet it’s true.
You are where you are because God put you there.
Yes, there will be moments when you doubt this. Yes, you will have questions. Yes, there will be moments when you pray, “God, are you crazy? What were you thinking?”
Yet here you are. Right where God wants you to be. And God is confident, completely confident in who you are, in what you are able to do, and in your presence.
Be confident. Be bold. Be secure.