by Berry D. Simpson
Who has influenced you? Specifically, who has influenced your message and your search for meaning?
Looking back over more than twenty-five years of writing, I realize that understanding and communicating God’s personal calling has been important to me since the beginning of my modern era. As far back as high school, I felt there was a call, a purpose, to my life, but I didn’t understand it or know how to explore it. It was more of an ambient thought in the back of my mind that I was aware of but didn’t know what to do with.
That is, until 2002, when a friend loaned me a set of cassette tapes (“Here, this seems to be the sort of thing you would like”). The tapes were from a workshop by Gary Barkalow, who was with Focus on the Family at the time. Gary has since become my friend, but at the time, I’d never heard of him or his ministry. However, his workshop was the freshest thing I’d ever heard about God’s will and calling. And not only that, I hadn’t heard anyone use video clips while teaching, and I took notice how effective it was.
I was between jobs at the time, searching for the next thing, begging God for insight. To keep myself occupied I was building bookshelves in my garage, so I listened to those workshop tapes repeatedly while working, day after day. I eventually had to make copies so I wouldn’t wear them out before returning them to my friend. Besides the fact that I was actively seeking employment, I expect the reason Gary’s message resonated so strongly with me was that it was something I’d been thinking for a long time but didn’t know how to articulate it.
The workshop reminded me that God was more concerned with our character than with our next employer. He cared more about the path of our life than about each of our individual choices. He didn’t have to change his perfect plan every time we made a bad decision because his perfect plan was to train us up, grow us up, to be like Jesus, and he did that through all our decisions whether good or bad.
Our calling from God was NOT about career or job. In fact, I had always assumed God had called me to be a petroleum engineer and a Bible teacher, and maybe a writer, but those were merely assignments, the tools God gave to put my calling into action.
Well, all that information changed the way I taught and the content of every lesson from that day forward.
I recently returned to those roots of the calling message in the process of fine-tuning one of my favorite ministries, Journey Partner Groups. I searched my files for the notes I took back in 2002 when I first heard this talk, but I couldn’t find them. I told Cyndi, “I can picture what they looked like, but I cannot find them.” I am always stunned whenever I can’t find something. It is a complete shock that they aren’t exactly where I thought they should be. So, I started over. I dug out the CDs I’d made from the original workshop tapes, and listened again. I am glad I did.
I’ve realized that God’s call was for me is to give away what I’ve learned, to share my heart, whether engineering or writing or teaching. In effect, my call is to tell the story.
I realized that every lesson I taught or every essay I published or every conversation I joined, all ended up focusing on one of these topics: growing closer to God every day, becoming a life-long student, pursuing your love, or growing stronger in community. That was the story I had to tell.
I also had a desire to break down the barriers we westerners erect dividing the spiritual life from the secular. I believe everything is spiritual, whether preaching or cycling, singing or backpacking, studying or running marathons.
Listening to that workshop again reminded me of how much my life has changed since 2002. In addition to the calling message, Gary introduced me to Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge, which soon became a men’s book study in my church led by me, which morphed into the Iron Men group, which established itself as a major ministry marker in my life for the past eight years. In 2002, I saw none of those changes coming. It was all a surprise.
I have been fortunate to be influenced by powerful men throughout my life, and it is my desire to be one of those men for the people around me. Gary Barkalow is now leading his own ministry, Noble Heart, and I encourage you to investigate his teaching and read his book, It’s Your Call. It might change the rest of your life.
QUESTIONS: Who has influenced you, influenced your message?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org