Have you ever wondered: What is my purpose?
I knew I’d end up working at Central Church.
There have been so many times that my reading plans lined up with the message series or the conversations I’d have in the lobby would word-for-word be a part of Pastor Dan’s sermon. I can’t begin to explain to you how often I’d spend a week reflecting on something and it would be the topic of a pre-service prayer.
There was even the time I had an entire message ready for our first impressions team, but woke up that morning with a song in my head. I hummed that song as I got ready and realized I had to change my morning devo for the team last minute. I showed up at the meeting and that song from my head was being rehearsed by Central Worship for the service. To top it off the two verses I selected for my new devo and the message behind them were also a part Dan’s message that weekend. It got to the point where I had to tell Dan to stop reading my diary because things were just getting weird.
But if I’m honest, all of this began nearly five years ago when a former classmate of mine died unexpectedly from an underlying medical condition. As I sat in his funeral I couldn’t stop asking myself: If I died today, would I go to heaven?
I honestly didn’t know.
In the weeks and months that followed, I couldn’t stop one part of one hymn from filling my head constantly: “Come and follow me and I will bring you home. I love you and you are mine.” It played over and over like some broken record in nearly every silent moment I had to myself. It motivated me to try to find a church that felt like home again.
In November 2016 I ended up in the back row of Central Church, and in an instant, I knew I was home. I dove headfirst into my faith and I was hungry to learn as much as I could. I barely slept. Sleep felt like a waste of time. I had too much to learn and not enough hours in my day to absorb it all. I downloaded the YouVersion Bible App and started reading plans with question prompts and journaled on them daily. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night unable to fall asleep again because I was so excited to get back to my reading. Sunday wasn’t enough and I had already gone back and listened to all of Dan’s messages… so I listened to every Levi Lusko podcast, filling my house with sticky notes of verses and phrases that made me pause.
The deeper I got, the more I started analyzing my actions, my intentions, my relationships, and my career. It became obvious that in order for me to move forward I’d have to leave some things behind. I had some pruning to do, and it started with decluttering my home and emptying my brain of all the lies I had told myself about myself for most of my life.
However, the hardest part was learning to leave people while still loving them. This was my wilderness. As I began to understand the calling that was happening and became more outspoken in my faith, I realized that the hypocrisy can’t coexist with truth. I didn’t want to get drunk on Friday and show up to church on Sunday. I couldn’t justify spiraling behavior around me when in my heart I knew it wasn’t OK – My silence began to speak louder than any of my words ever could. I found it harder join in on gossip because my eyes were suddenly open to the pain behind it. I felt less and less convicted about bad guys getting what they deserved and more and more compassionate for how they got there.
Most people had one of two reactions to my new way of seeing the world:
1. They saw the changes I was making and and supported my happiness and growth. While not all of them quite understood it, they recognized the positivity it was creating and loved me for it.
2. They became incredibly uncomfortable and suddenly didn’t know how to talk to me. It usually ended in some sort of joke or awkward exchange about me being a church person now.
Sitting across from people you used to know and having them feel like strangers is heartbreaking.
But the craziest thing was that in every void I found something better than what I was leaving behind. A job lost brought me to a job where I’d find a soul sister that began her own walk with Jesus… all because I defended Christian music during a work road trip. A night that I looked forward to spending with my significant other is now a night I’d never miss with some of the most amazing and inspiring people in my life. Strained friendships were replaced with stronger ones. A terminal diagnosis in our family resulted in a renewed reliance on faith and trusting God’s plan for our lives.
This lost human being named Erika began to realize that getting found was a process that requires patience and continuous effort… and that none of it was actually about me.
All summer I avoided asking myself the question that was put out to our community group: What is my calling?
You see, God had been so responsive to my prayers and questions that I was afraid to ask because I wasn’t sure that I was prepared to say yes. It felt like God was constantly, and not so subtly, dropping hints my way.
The weekend after the question was brought up in our group, Dan jokingly asked me when I was going to quit my job and work for Central. I laughed, gave an exaggerated yeah right, and then had an internal eye roll because I already felt like that was the answer to the question I was too afraid to ask.
In mid-October something shifted. I honestly can’t explain it. I was in a job I loved. I had exceeded my monthly goals from day one. I had flexibility and freedom. I was happy, but there was an itch I couldn’t quite reach. So, I finally mustered up the courage to ask the question: Where do you want me? Lead me, and I’ll follow.
The next day, Dan asked me if I loved my job. My heart raced and I re-read the message before responding with a yes. I explained how much I loved it, how great it was, and how I had never been happier! Dan responded with disappointment. I asked why and he told me about a possibility to join the Central team. My out loud voice said I’d be open to meet over some Starbucks. My inside voice said Really God? When I asked you I meant someday in the distant future, not right now. This is crazy.
Before Starbucks I already knew my answer was yes, but fear and anxiety filled me with so many doubts:
I just started this job… I can’t leave. How do I tell my parents? What will people think? Will they let me work out a notice or will I get released on the spot? Will my friends think I’m crazy? I’m not good enough for this job. Why me? What if I fail? This is going to be the decision that finally puts puts my Dad over the edge… He is going to kill me.
I spoke with a couple of people about these fears and one friend said, “It’s not about other people. It’s about the call God has made and how you choose to respond.” I made a list of pros and cons with the other friend and not one con was about the job, my ability, or my passion. They were all about what other people might think about me.
Our entire conversation revolved around me saying that I felt like this was the cumulation of years of searching for my purpose. I kept repeating that what it really came down to was how I wanted to be remembered and what I wanted my legacy to be… We spent some time going in circles, but no matter how I tried to fight it, my answer was God and the love I have for the people around me.
I left knowing I would say yes, but before I fell asleep, I asked God one more time:
Why me? I want this, but is this really what you want for me right now?
If this is real, just tell me.
When I woke up the next day and checked Facebook, the new message series for Central Church was announced:
God dropped the mic.
All doubt was gone and my answer would be yes, no matter the cost. Being a part of the Central Church team is so much more than a job. It’s an answer to a call God made to me in 2014 – To follow Him and trust that His plan for my life is better than the one I had for myself.
As I sat in the last message in the How Will They Remember Me series I decided that the first thing on the list for my new office is a lock for my diary to keep Dan out of it, but it also confirmed, yet again, that I am right where I am supposed to be… There are no coincidences.
Are you brave enough to ask God: What’s my purpose? I believe that He will answer you.