I’ve had several people comment on my last post about rattling doorknobs. Some said they found it personally encouraging. Others told me that they had sent it to friends who, they believed, needed to be encouraged to become more daring in the doorknob rattling department, rather than always waiting for doors to swing open all by themselves.
What I didn’t say in the past post was that I found in my own life that doorknob rattling doesn’t always come easy; indeed, at times, I’ve done my very best to avoid certain doorknobs because I feared the doors on which they were installed just might swing open when I would much rather have them remain firmly shut.
A case in point: I wrestled for several years with the call to ministry. God had spoken quietly to my heart through the voice of some significant people in my life who challenged me to consider serving Christ through the vocation of ministry. While respecting their wisdom, insight and care for me, the thought of being a pastor was not something I was ready to embrace. I would thank them for their encouragement but tell them politely that I just didn’t have the “right stuff” for ministry. I never bothered to try to define what I thought the “right stuff” was – I was simply convinced that it was some depth of faith, talent and combination of virtue, patience and piety that was not me.
At one point, God’s call got more insistent and determined during my undergraduate studies (I was planning for a career in journalism), and an opportunity came for me to jump directly into a position as managing editor of a small weekly newspaper, I leapt. I remember C. S. Lewis’ great line in his own spiritual autobiography about his own reluctant conversion: “You must picture me alone in that room in the college night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England, all the while looking every which way for any means of escape.” (from Surprised by Joy)
Truthfully, my retreat from university back to the newspaper business was motivated less by my enthusiasm for journalism than it was as a bid to escape the haunting, relentless prodding by God to surrender to His plans for my life instead of thinking I knew better what would bring me joy. Within three weeks of taking the position, I knew I had made one of the biggest mistakes in my life, and, thank God, had sufficient sense to surrender to that call which would not be avoided.
My surrender was not without considerable ongoing defiance. I bluntly told God that he was making a very big mistake if he thought I was cut out to be a pastor. I might dejectedly agree to start the process of working towards acceptance as a student for ministry, but pointedly told God that I would prove him wrong. But if that was the direction he wanted for me, well and fine, I would start rattling the doorknobs on the process of being certified as a theology student, but I assured the Lord that no doubt the door would be slammed in my face.
Funny thing about rattling doorknobs. Sometimes the door swings wide open and the path beyond is far smoother and more wondrous than could have ever been imagined. I rattled the doorknob on ministry and have never looked back, finding the release of giftedness in me that I never knew I had and which obviously came only through the Holy Spirit. I found joy and blessing beyond measure greeting me along the journey, even when the way had its share of challenges, hurts and sorrows. More than anything, I found my Saviour present with me to lead me, strengthen me, oft times to grace me with affirmation and faith when my human self-confidence and capacity had evaporated, and more often than I realized, he was there simply to carry me every step of the way.
It’s been said that sometimes those things we most fear can become, in fact, the source of our greatest blessings. Too often do we refuse to obey proddings from the Lord because the tasks, ministries or the “stretching” involved seems far beyond our comfort zone or our sense of giftedness or ability. Yet as we try the things that appear so difficult, we often gain several amazing discoveries. One is competencies and talents we never knew we had. The second is a supernatural empowering so that we really can say, “Not I, but the Lord at work in me.” The third is that the fear which held us back from trying had become exaggerated in our imagination out of all proportion to the actual task, and sadly, would have robbed us of a wonderful experience. And fourthly, we may find ourselves serving the Kingdom of God in ways we could never have imagined.
Somewhere I once read a devotional that asked the question, what if? What if Noah said, “I don’t build arks.” What if Abraham said, “I don’t go on journeys without a road map.” What if Joseph said, “I’ve given up interpreting dreams.” What if Moses said, “I’ve a price on my head – I don’t do lead slaves on an exodus to a promised land!” Or to move to the New Testament, what if Jesus said, “I don’t do crosses.” Or if Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Stephen, Philip, John Mark and all the rest of the apostles said, “I’m not a public speaker. And I am certainly not into suffering for my faith.”
Our hesitancy and reluctance to rattle those fearsome-looking doorknobs is understandable, yet I pray that we would unwilling to let the last word on our living belong to fear, self-doubt or depreciation, indifference or indolence. I have often quoted the wonderful comment of C. S. Lewis that we are far too easily satisfied, and that our biggest problem is not that we ask too much of God but that we expect too little. We are, he wrote, like beggar children content with playing in a mud puddle in an alley when all the time God is inviting us for a holiday at the seashore.
Scripture tells us that the Lord has in store for us “more than we can ask or imagine.” If only we dared to let the Lord lead us into the adventure. But first, there is a doorknob needing to be rattled.