I’m inspired by my mentor. Patients think the world of him. Yet he speaks to his patients directly. You almost wonder if they might be offended. One time, in order to motivate a patient to quit smoking he asked, Sir, what would it be like if you left your wife to another man?
I’ve wondered whether his provocative comments to patients would have a poor effect. Instead the words seem to genuinely move hearts and positively change behavior.
He is willing to go to the nth degree for them. At times committing himself to calling a patient everyday to pray just so they could quit smoking. Or challenging a patient to go without food for a day so they could develop discipline over appetite – then going without food himself, too.
In a frank conversation I find out he’s paid a pastor’s salary. I have no idea how much a pastor gets paid. After some research I’m surprised. It’s about the same amount I make in residency, 25% of my potential income following training.
I learn he has been living on this income for the last 15 years. The doctor lifestyle had to go. Financial disasters came close to shutting him down. Stress weighed heavily on family relationships. And yet in every way God had blessed him with meaning, happiness and loving relationships – the aspects of life that mattered.
The next morning I have my quiet time. This morning’s Bible reading is about the Rich Young Ruler (verse link). After reading the story, I feel God moving me in my heart, I want you to be a medical missionary doctor in the United States like your mentor.
I am not often moved by these strong impressions. That morning it was undeniable. If I played my cards right, I was going to get a 400% increase on my salary like my colleagues. I wasn’t ready to give that up. I fought God.
You are the Rich Young Ruler. Again, the impression was so strong. The parallels in the story were clear. Like the Rich Young Ruler, I had the potential for wealth, for influence, and a life ahead of me. I could choose that life. Or I could choose to follow Jesus.
I fought it with everything inside me. I didn’t want to do it.
But the thought of turning away from my Lord was also unbearable.
My face was pressed against the carpet floor. Tears streaming down my face. I was sweating. My heart pounded. It felt like a heavy rock in my chest. I just couldn’t’ give up what I thought I wanted.
I can’t surrender right now, I prayed. But make me willing to be surrendered.
The change over time was subtle but steady. The moment I realized I no longer was clinging to my increase in salary was when I looked over the contract my colleague showed me. His salary was going up 400%.
It didn’t matter to me.
The moment I realized the change was real was during a conversation with my mentor. I expressed my deep desire to learn and practice medicine the way he did it – medical ministry as he called it. He replied that he didn’t have any money to pay me. Ultimately, I would need to work for every penny. No benefits. No guarantees.
I couldn’t believe what I said next, Even if it causes me financial ruin, I want to learn medical ministry.
It sounds crazy. It sounds stupid but here are some principles I’ve learned about calling:
Following your calling can be incredibly risky. It can feel like your walking on the edge of a precipice. If this is your experience then you’re on the right track.
Here are three lessons I learned about calling:
- The point of calling is transformation. God calls you to something with the intent of actually changing your heart. He seeks to change motivations. He wants to change you.
- Transformation of the heart does not happen without struggle. Struggle is actually a good thing. It’s a sign of growth. Our times of greatest growth come thru our greatest challenges.
- Struggle resolves when it ends in surrender. Surrender is setting aside everything in your life to pursue the call. It’s giving up all that gets in the way of the call. It’s turning over the questions and worries to God while honing in on the purpose of your life.
What’s the result of pursuing your calling through blood, sweat and tears?
I’ll discuss that in a future post.