I've just graduated from a Christian college after studying missions and children's ministry. When I first entered the program, I intended on being a children's pastor in a church. As the years went on, I felt a special calling to children who have never had the opportunity to belong to a church at all. During my college years I worked with a program for disadvantaged kids and loved the opportunity to love them; I was the only Jesus some of the children or parents would ever see.
Upon graduating, I've had several opportunities to teach preschoolers, as an up-front Christian, but outside of a church setting. The problem is that my two wonderful parents, who are also in full-time ministry, are a little anxious about my moving out of state so soon. I think that they also suspect that I am taking an easy way out of my calling, because I am not planning to work in a church. They may also be worried because my boyfriend lives in the state I'll be moving to.
Through prayer, I am sure that the move is God's will for my life at this time. But how can I convince them of that? Is it even my place to do so? Should I leave that to God? What do you suggest?
One of the difficulties of writing this column is that I have to guess about the other side of the story. The longer I reflect on your letter, the less transparent it seems to be. I can picture two scenarios. Which one is true? I thought I knew when you first wrote, but now I'm not so sure.
Scenario #1 (the way you want me to see the picture). Your relationship with your parents has been good, but they are a little overprotective. Although the change in your understanding of your vocation seems abrupt to them, actually it has developed gradually, over a period of several years. It's true that your boyfriend lives in the state where your new job would be located, but you haven't angled for things to work out that way; they just have. Your parents are finding it a little hard to get used to your being grown up.
Scenario #2 (the way you don't want me to see the picture). Your parents fully accept the fact that you have grown up, but viewing them as overprotective helps you to dismiss their legitimate concerns. You have known for years that Christ calls you to a church-based ministry. Suddenly, because you want to be near your boyfriend, you are trying to convince yourself that He has an entirely different plan for you. You are fooling yourself about your motives, and when you pray, you are calling your own strong desires the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
This much, at least, is plain: You have come of age, and the final responsibility for the decision is yours. So, if you are completely convinced that Scenario #1 is the true one, that the move is God's will for you, and that you are not evading your calling in order to be near your boyfriend, then I think you should be gentle but firm with your parents, proceed with your plans, and trust that your parents will "come around" in time. The very fact that you do proceed may nudge them into recognizing that you have entered a new stage of life and that the relationship between you must now change. But you had better first make sure that you are not playing a fast one on yourself. If the truth lies in Scenario #2, then your evasion of your calling will only become more plain with time, and will grieve not only your parents but the Lord.
Grace and peace,
Copyright 2002 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.