What On Earth Am I Doing Here?

first grade me
First grade me

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.velvet-ashes

12 thoughts on “What On Earth Am I Doing Here?

  1. I have never felt a calling – but like to help. I made music for a living. It is still heard more than 40 years – I had no idea. All that and I am still pretty sure I fall under at least one character quality in your list of those in need of your help – go figure . You go girl.

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    1. I think calling can be a word laden with religious obligations. You had a career that enhanced the pleasure of many who love music – surely that’s a calling just as much as any. I think you have many fine character qualities, and I suspect humility is top of the list for you.

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  2. Laurie, I love your story of being six and how that was a clue to how God has wired you to “be a voice for the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the outcast, the neglected ones in society. ” Thanks for linking up with Velvet Ashes!

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  3. Laurie: this is a perfect example of why even children should be listened to carefully. We adults tend to forget that even at young ages we had some well-formed opinions and weren’t the completely clueless that adults took us for. And I admire your position on integration at the age of six; clearly you were destined to do what you’ve done.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we’re not sure we have a calling either.

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    1. Children are little people. Even in our age of over-parenting, we can be guilty of not listening or comprehending that children have quite a bit of wisdom at times. I am grateful that you, sir, followed your legal inclination as well as your considerable gift of writing. Both are noble when used to do good.

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  4. As always a very thoughtful piece. I also have a template passed on to us by Matthew. When faced with any situation, I ask: 1. Will this help me to love God with all of my being?; and 2. Will it help me love my neighbor as myself? If I cannot answer yes to both questions, I know that I am creating a false image of God. It hasn’t failed me yet. But it certainly has helped me grow in my faith. And it has made me realize how many theological arguments have nothing to do with our faith life.

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    1. I love your statement, Steve, that “many theological arguments have nothing to do with our faith life.” very true. The ones that do will probably pass your criteria for evaluating a situation. I’m going to watch this week and see if I’m evaluating my situations by Matt. 22:34-37.

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    2. Steve, your template is simpler than mine. I like it. Someone painted a simple piece of art that hangs on the wall of our church. It says, Love God, Love People. It helps me stay grounded, or as you say, realize that many theological arguments have nothing to do with our faith life.

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  5. Love this post, Laurie, and especially the title – how it connects to what you wrote. What am I doing? I like your general principles of calling – because the specifics can change – and often do change – and sometimes change frequently….You’ve challenged me to think through my own general principles of calling (I may borrow some of yours to do that 🙂 ) – I mean, I know, generally, but I think it would be helpful for me to iron it out more specifically for ME.

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    1. I thought somewhat about the title because “calling” can be heavy and religious, especially if you are not in circles that use Christian lingo. I think it helps to move beyond the word itself and examine our basic intuitive self that God has given to us to use for him.

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