We’ve all seen it on TV. It’s the headline every summer (at least in my home state of Colorado). There’s a wildfire raging. The forest is up in flames. Homes are in danger. People are being uprooted and evacuated. Devastation. Throughout the year during these reports, I always have such a deep amount of respect for those who are charging headfirst into the flames. They’re doing what every little boy in my elementary school wanted: to be a hero.
These brave men and women have one single goal for their career (volunteer or otherwise). Put out fires. It’s what they do best, it’s what they have been called to do above all of the other possibilities that have presented themselves throughout the years. It is a valiant calling and we deeply owe those in its service. But as long as I can remember, it’s just not something that I have ever wanted to be a part of. It is simply something that I am not called to nor would I be any good at it.
What I did know, however, was that I was called into something else, something no less qualified for the Kingdom, no less important, no less challenging.
Being invested in the lives of teenagers was always something that I thought I would want to be a part of since my high school years. I knew that it was something that I was called to. I knew that it was something that mattered. I knew that it was something that I was good at too. It’s something that excites me!
When I was called into ministry with teenagers, I knew that it would be something that changed hearts, minds and eventually the world. But now that I go into my office at the church (which is a very good, healthy church, by the way, like many, many others in the world) I notice something wildly out of place. I notice something that wasn’t in line with what Jesus had in mind for His people and the way that we are called to love each other.
So often when we would be going about our day-to-day tasks, interacting with different people and doing life together, we had adopted a language that was never meant for us, and I caught myself saying it all too often.
“Ok, hang on, I’ll be right there. I’ve just got to go put out a fire really quick.” I would hear myself say when referring to a student who had been hurt in conversation with another student. I had to stop myself. I realized a very harsh reality that I was definitely not proud of.
I never wanted to be a firefighter. I wanted to be a pastor.
I wanted to do real life with people, to point people’s hearts back to Jesus and cultivate a space for them to bump into Him so that He could love them as Children of God. So why am I putting out fires? I felt like I had forgotten my calling.
Doing real life with people, especially when I see it in the Bible, is messy. It was never supposed to be easy. It was never supposed to be convenient. It was never supposed to be one of the bottom points of a job description. Doing real life together means loving each other when we don’t want to. It means loving extravagantly.
Doing real life together means an inconvenient love.
Doing real life with people was Jesus’ calling to every believer, no matter what they did for an occupation, and it seemed as though the people who were supposed to “do this the best” were failing the hardest.
Doing real life together means a mentality shift. We no longer put out fires, we weep together. We celebrate together. We walk together. We do genuine, intentional, authentic relationship together.
If we want to move from being firefighters to the pastors that we were called to be, then we have to do a heart check.
How do we actually see the people that God has placed in the ministries He has entrusted to us?
Are they people with stories or just interruptions in our day?
Are they the Children of our same Father, or are they boxes waiting to be checked off on our weekly routine check-ups?
God is intentionally orchestrating and working in each life that we comes into contact with. I don’t ever want to forget my calling again. I want to start doing real life. I want to love inconveniently.
Sam Peketz is a Colorado native youth worker who has been investing in the lives of students and leaders for six years. The same God who created the Rocky Mountains is at work in the hearts and lives of students everywhere and Sam is so excited to be blessed with the opportunity to train and equip a generation that will lead a revival in our nation. Find him on Instagram @speketz and Facebook.com/sam.peketz.