At seventeen years old, I stood in front of hundreds of people at an altar call. I was sick of being entrenched in the throes of pornography and depression. I remember getting to the front of our makeshift sanctuary and praying, “God, if you want to use me–you are going to have to change me. You have to break these chains that are binding my life.” God answered my prayers. He empowered me, by his grace, to fight pornography and he overcame its hold. He replaced my desire for pornography with a thirst to hear his voice in the Bible. I was convinced that God had called me to become a vocational pastor/elder because he had supernaturally granted me freedom. In retrospect, I do not believe this supernatural experience confirmed God calling me into vocational ministry. Instead, I think of it as the beginning of my journey to discern God’s call.
One avenue God gives to discern the call to ministry (or anything) is the local church. After a year at a post-high school internship in East Texas, I returned to Houston and felt a unhealthy burden towards overseas missions. I thought and believed that God had cornered me and now was testing my obedience to him. Through long and hard conversations, counsel, and prayer, I began to feel freedom from missing God’s will for my life. At nineteen years old, holding onto God’s sovereignty and the hope found in Romans 8:28 for weary sojourners, I applied to Bethlehem College and Seminary (BCS). After being accepted, I ran into the school with hope that I was doing what God wanted me to do.
It was at BCS that God broke me down. Through the intensive classes and personal battles against sin, I felt the weight of not measuring up to a standard looming over my life. I looked around and compared myself to those around me and realized how unqualified I really am. Then in the second semester of my junior year I broke off my engagement. I was broken and tossed into despair the rest of 2015. I suffered through severe anxiety, bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts. The God of the Bible quickly became a distant entity who only sought my torture and his own sadistic joy. I tasted despair and saw no end. I had suffered the loss of all things and I had no idea how to proceed. Surely God is not one to hand this much suffering to his children. Either he is not God or I am not his child.
As I watched all of my dreams die and entered into despair’s cold dungeon, God saw fit not to leave me there. It was in this broken state that God rebuilt my faith and desire for ministry. Through the ministry of the local church (alongside my professors and friends), I realized I had nothing to hold on to for comfort besides the gospel. I began to see again that I was called into sonship through faith in Jesus.
Just as God the Son died and rose again, I saw resurrection. I opened the Bible, not as one who needed to mediate its message to others but as one who is constantly in dire need of it’s direction towards the thirst-quenching well: Jesus. The God of the Bible was no longer a distant entity; He began to be (again) the One who condescended and took on our humanity. He is the One who suffered and hung on the cross, rose on the third day, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He has given us His Spirit and empowered His
children to walk in a manner worthy of our primary calling: son. Since God’s primary calling on our lives (as men and women) is sonship, we are free to walk in whatever we desire –as long as it aligns with the explicit revelation of the Bible. It is with this freedom that I pursue this dream.
I now hold a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies with a concentration in exegesis. This does not confirm my calling to the pastorate. If you are wondering if you are called into the pastorate, here are three questions that I have been asked:
- Do you desire to be in vocational ministry (Psa. 37:4; 1 Tim. 3:1)?
- Do you meet the biblical qualifications of an elder and/or deacon (1 Tim. 3:1–13; Titus1:6-9)?
- Does your bible–saturated community affirm your abilities and calling (1 Tim. 3:6)?
My journey is far from over. I am still learning and growing in what God is doing in my life. Thus far, the Lord has graciously granted me hope to walk forward in this dream from when I was seventeen. Why has he chosen this lot for me? I have no idea, but I know that He will work out everything in my life for my good and those around me.
And though there are seasons when faith languishes, and self too much prevails, this is their general disposition; and the Lord, whom they serve, does not disappoint their expectations. He leads them by a right way, preserves them from a thousand snares, and satisfies them that he is and will be their guide even unto death. – John Newton