When I was six years old, I recall a discussion between my mother and father. I was seated in the back seat of the Buick, and my parents were concerned about the new school term. In a few months, I would begin the first grade in pubic school. For the first time in history, blacks and whites would share the same classroom in our small Louisiana town. My parents had some misgivings about what may happen in 1969.
To my parents’ surprise, I spoke up.
“I believe integration is the right thing,” I said confidently from the back seat.
I had been uttering high falutin’ words since I started talking. No one was surprised by that. It was my words afterwards that left quite the impression.
I don’t recall the rest of the conversation, but my mom said I delivered quite the civil rights discourse from the back seat. My parents at the time were Southern Democrats, who believed that the separation of races was the American way. According to mother, my little speech convinced my father that I would be alright, and even perhaps, our little village would be just fine if the few black and Native American families sent their little ones to school with the rest of us.
And so it was.
I did not grow up to be a civil rights lawyer.
I did however grow in my conviction to be a voice for the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the outcast, the neglected ones in society. My beliefs led to career choices such as working with at-risk students, learning disabled children, emotionally disturbed children, the homeless, and the poor in Mexico and Honduras.
I believe that everyone has a calling, a sense of what their purpose in life should be. It may be multiple things – mother, wife, teacher, choir member, and any number of career paths. For the Christian, I don’t think it always mean one specific thing, either.
Rather, I follow general principles that serve as my framework for life’s choices.
1. The servant is not higher than the master. Jesus uttered these words to his disciples in Matthew 10:24. Jesus came to serve, and so must I. This statement also implies that I serve the master first.
2. The one lost sheep is just as important, if not more so, than the other 99 who are in safety. Matthew 18:12 is a profound example of Jesus’ perspective of looking out for the ones in danger and not playing it safe in this life. Looking for the One Sheep is an adventure that can yield the most marvelous friendships with people you may never encounter unless you are looking for the One Sheep.
3. Humility yields better position than self-promotion. Everyone agrees with this idea in theory, but it’s harder to put into practice. I am afraid I have violated that a bit in my years in Honduras in my desire to see our ragamuffin ministry receive funding and prayer support. In the end, though, it’s best to take the lowest seat at the table.
4. Be happy along the way. If I want to finish life well, finding enjoyment in my work and life is very important. Religion doesn’t mean putting aside everything that’s fun and enjoyable. A few nights ago, for instance, I shared a pizza and beer with a few friends. We laughed until we cried. I wasn’t inebriated. I just had a good time.
This post is linked to Velvet Ashes, a site devoted to helping women who feel called to serve in other countries. Follow the link to Velvet Ashes to read more.