THE BLOG

When It Came Time to Deny Myself

03/18/2015 03:16 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2015

I recently began a very special process in the Reformed Church in America (RCA). The RCA has a designation for Ordained Elders who feel called by God to embark on a series of classes and be commissioned as a "Preaching Elder," within their "Classis," -- the regional subset of the denomination, in essence, a regional grouping of churches. It is a process which could take up to three years since classes are not offered all the time. However, it is also a process which is truly a blessing to be called to endeavor upon. But, I'm getting ahead of myself, let me back-up.

In February of 2014 I was ordained and installed as an Elder in the Deerpark Reformed Church (DRC) in Port Jervis New York, a congregation which was originally formed in 1737. I sat-down with my Pastor around that time and asked about the Preaching Elder process, but did not feel called at the time to pursue it, or perhaps I was not able to see that I was being called.

About a month ago, God finally knocked loud enough for me to hear, or more accurately, I finally removed the clutter that was making me deaf to the call. See, since I was 10 or 11-years-old, I have always figured I would work in government, in some capacity. I have a family with a rich history of public service and a keen commitment to the community. I serve my local school district, the Delaware Valley School District, as both its youngest School Director (elected at 21) and youngest President (elected by my peers at 24) of the Board of School Directors. While the School Board has been an enjoyable opportunity to serve a district I care about deeply, it is a volunteer position. I also hold a bachelor's degree in political science and will soon-hold a master's degree in Public Administration (MPA). So, government, in some capacity, just seemed like the obvious path; indeed, I do work full-time for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, a professional organization representing school entities across the Commonwealth.

It was not until a series of circumstances prevented me from continuing my service on the school board beyond the expiration of my current term that I realized God was calling me to serve as a Preaching Elder. I, like many other Christians, needed to have earthly doors shut off to me to see what it was God was calling me to do. Additionally, I needed to open myself up to the call. Since bringing the call to my local consistory, the governing council of the DRC, I have felt great peace, definite excitement, and God's grace through the Holy Spirit, assuring me of the validity of the decision I came to.

After hearing the call, I spoke with my pastor, who had been praying for some time for a Preaching Elder to come from the DRC (though she didn't know whom it would be). We had a great conversation, during which I shared some of the nastier aspects of local politics that I had encountered more recently; that didn't factor into the series of circumstances I mentioned earlier, but only allowed me to realize just how sad it is that individuals could be so focused on their earthly rewards, something scripture warns us against time and time again, with no regard to eternity. However, my faith allows me not to anger with these individuals, rather to pray for them, as God asked us in the Lord's Prayer to do: "...forgive us our debtors." After sharing this with my pastor, she wisely counseled that this was God illustrating that politics was not my future. Indeed, she was right; I hadn't seen it that way.

In furthering our service to God, we often do not want to hear the call. In the book of Matthew 6:24 it says "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'" Indeed, I had to deny myself my earthly desires, my earthly wants, and take up the "Preaching Elder Cross" and follow Jesus, whom I had already loved, and who wished to call me to this service using the spiritual gifts he gave me. To my fellow Christians, I ask: Will you, too, deny yourself and hear what God is calling you to do, in service to our mutual faith?