I remember in February of 1991 when I walked down the aisle of my church and made it official to the whole world (the whole world of Fielder Road Baptist Church, anyways) that God was calling me to surrender to full-time ministry. I remember the joy from making that public knowledge - the accountability and encouragement that came with it. I remember how elated my Mom & Dad were, believing for years that God was preparing me for something special. I remember a lot of memorable and amazing ups & downs that came along with this over the next years, all affirming that God had indeed brought me into this world to serve Him.
But I also remember in 1992 I was playing the drums at a statewide college conference in Texas. A pastor-friend of my Dad's was there and had heard about my decision to go into full-time ministry. After the conference was over we had a chance to talk for a few minutes. This is where he stunned me. I remember like it was yesterday his words: "Brian, I want to encourage you; if you can do anything else in this world and love it and enjoy it...do that."
In other words: if you can be a disc jockey, an architect, a teacher, a coach, a dentist...ANYTHING...and enjoy it...do that instead. Don't go into full-time ministry.
I remember thinking, "My Dad's gonna sock him in the mouth when I tell him what he said." To my surprise, my Dad didn't want to sock him. He wanted to thank him. And I was one confused collegiate. Pastors running around telling people, "Run for your lives...don't do it!" Was he serious?
Fast forward 15 years. I can recall right off the top of my head (which doesn't happen easily anymore) at least 5 conversations I have had in recent years where I have expressed this same advice and encouragement to young people seeking the Lord's will for their lives. WHY? Because - as I have been reminded of so clearly these last few months - if God has not called you, shaped you, prepared you and set you on fire to do this - to serve Him and PEOPLE - you will go down with the ship. The mutiny will crush you and suck the life right out of you.
Jesus didn't equate himself with a shepherd for no good reason. He's asking, "Do you have what it takes to be a shepherd? Do you have the patience? The perseverance? The humility? Do you like sheep? Do you love sheep?"
"If you love me...feed my sheep." I have no other options...no Plan B...nothing. And there are so many days (and nights) when I just wish God would drop me a Plan B, give me a loophole or an escape route. But it doesn't come. And in the end, I would have no idea what to do, where to go, or WHO I was pretending to be.
Humility. Patience. Perseverance. Compassion. Brokenness. Passion.
These are the things I ask for. These are the things You have asked of me.
These are the desire of my heart.