After hearing Mary and Theresa’s call stories, I almost ran out of Miller Chapel going, “Well, I did it wrong.” But no, I did not do it wrong. There’s not one mold that I have to follow in life, there’s not one path that leads to the right place. There are many ways that I can do the very same thing. And the way I do things is the way I do it; my own way. So… while this isn’t really my call story, it is a narrative of being called. Is that the same thing? I don’t know.
Sarang’s Call Story
The word call has become so confusing to me. It is a simple 4 letter word, with only 3 unique letters, a good word, but this 4 letter word that I learned before grade school has become one of the most confusing and multilayered word to me.
When I was 4, call was easy. My mom calls me, my dad calls me. And I go.
When I was a teenager, as simple as the word call was, it got a little more complicated. I call a crush and talk with him for hours. The next day, we pretend we didn’t talk. So complicated.
When I went to college, it became weird. Call me later, we’ll talk. I’ll call you, we’ll set something up. These words became trite that made me rather contrite.
But as I ventured into seminary, that, that is when the word call became a confusing and complicated as all get out. I mean I knew that there were some words that would get real complicated in seminary, words like predestination, and transubstantiation would get even more complicated than the word itself. But I mean how the heck does seminary mess up a four letter word, with three unique letters, a good word, CALL.
Well it did.
But funnily enough, it had absolutely nothing to do with the seminary, and the education process itself, so much as the people around me who were probably as conflicted, confused, and broken as I was. And they were the ones challenging God’s call on my life. I mean, in retrospect, they were just asking questions, but boy was I challenged. It almost felt like I had to have a story of what I now understand to be a rather Baptist notion of knowing the exact moment I was saved.
When were you called, how were you called.
So I repeated the story I had so many times before, avoiding the now weighted word, ‘call’
“As far back as I can remember I have wanted to become a missionary. My parents are missionaries and I love and appreciate what they do. I see beauty in their ministry and I want to be like them. “
And then in the ‘but, where are you really from’ kind of tone I am asked, ‘How about seminary? When were you called to seminary?’
Then I scratch my head and tell them the story of how I came to apply,
“My church small group was studying the Westminster Catechism. I had questions. And you never ask your dad who is a pastor questions about anything relating to faith and theology that you want a short answer to. But because I couldn’t figure it out, I asked my dad even though I knew he would turn question #2 into a two hour lecture. After a few weeks of doing this he said if I actually found this interesting I should look into seminary. I said no. nono. No no no. no no no no. But I felt so much peace about it that I did. So… I applied, I got in, and I came.”
But these days, the ‘call’ that I consistently struggle with is am I called to be ordained. Am I called to be a Teaching Elder of Word and Sacrament. And for the first time in my life, I do not have a stock answer that can be genuinely passed as the correct answer. The first time in my life I challenge this so-called call. But I do not wish to dwell on this today. At least not this specifically…
Before I came to seminary and was challenged with my call daily, it was easy. And I think part of it was easy because my life focused towards a vision. A vision that was set forth by God; God showed me something, and whether I saw it right or not, I saw it and I went towards it. Sometimes even jogged towards it. Having something to see at the end, whether it is a light at the end of the tunnel, someone’s loving arms, or a hotel sign that says ‘Double Tree’ at the end of a long day is easier to go towards.
But a call, that is something so much more confusing. Not only is often not literally auditory in our case, but even if it were, we often second guess ourselves, did we hear it correctly.
I arrived last night, shortly after midnight. I made my way to the air train and, shout out to my brother who used his points to get me a hotel last night, waited for the train to come. After about 30 minutes the guy on the platform said there was an emergency and the air train was not running between the terminals. He then gave us some very specific directions. I mean granted it was 1 in the morning and we were all super tired, but I went to two different places before finally figuring out where the guy had told us to go. Somehow level 3, door 2, did not register in my brain. We just don’t hear things right sometimes.
But not only that, a call, is something we follow. It is not something we go towards of our own will and volition. We go, without being able to see where we go.
My favorite videos on my phone is of my nephew in his little red Northface jacket, walking somewhat aimlessly but always towards the camera, because his mother or father is holding the phone calling him, ‘정원아~ 이리와~ 정원아~ 지지~ 옳치, 이리오세요…’ and whenever the direction of the call changes, Justin (his English name) turns towards the call. Trusting that it is his good mother, his good father, who is leading him in the right direction.
When I knew that my vision was to be a missionary in Thailand. I had no doubt and went towards that with all my might. I learned how to read and write Thai. I ate Thai food. I made Thai friends. I read books on Thailand. I honed my skills to be a missionary in Thailand.
But when my life shifted from a me-centric vision, to a God-centric call… excuse my French, the shit has hit the fan, and it is coming to me from every which way.
So, even though I don’t know if I am called to ordination, or how long God is calling me to stay in Texarkana, the one thing I do know is that God called me from the womb, when I was 4, when I was a teenager, when I was in college, and even today to be his servant, serving his people, making disciples, as I follow his call to wherever, whenever.
And I hope that I will not use the words, ‘I don’t know if I feel called to that’ as code for, ‘I don’t want to do that and I think God agrees.’ Or, ‘I don’t want to go there, and I doubt God who knows me so well would send me to a place like that.’
Yet be able to acknowledge and discern when and where God is calling me for a change, a shift… that
makes my story,
and her story,
together our story
And move my story,
and her story,
into a new our story,
a part of HIS story.
*Shared at Princeton Theological Seminary, Miller Chapel, on April 4th 2016, as part of the Opening Worship of Korean American Presbyterian Clergy Women’s 25th Anniversary Conference.