God's calling

Answering the Call: Do You Let God Go to Voicemail?

I slump down in the late afternoon sun on my worn out blue fold up chair. My son sits beside me in the grass near the courts – his chair, red. Lost in another humorous book borrowed from the library, he pays no attention to his two younger sisters as they mix in with other little ones around their size for their second basketball practice of the season.

A long, slow exhale escapes my lips as I can finally breathe after the whirlwind of afternoon pick ups, snack time (side note: does anyone else think snack time should actually be considered a meal with the massive amounts of snacks these kids eat?!), homework time, dinner prep, workouts for my eldest, and then driving back out into the world – 9 miles – to get them to practice.  All of this, of course, to be done within the span of 3 hours. I look down at my own book I’d planned to peruse through for this hour of relaxation.

But I can’t help watching as this first-year coach does his best to wrangle up the active seven and eight year old, trying to explain the meaning behind the words “box out.” In desperation, he asks one of the dads on the side for some assistance. The dad complies, but the look on his face reveals that this is something a bit out of his comfort zone.

A twinge of guilt settles upon my heart. Well, maybe not guilt. Maybe it’s a bit of a call to help out. Maybe I should get off of my comfy chair – of the bench, so to speak – and get in on the action.

But no. I let this call go to voicemail.

The excuses started to pile up: I’m too tired to answer. I’ve had a long day. I didn’t want to volunteer this year and he signed up for it. Besides, it seems he wanted a “dad’s” help, and that dad did a good job of helping out. This is my rest time. 

Never mind the fact that I’ve taught this age group for 10 years and might know some helpful tactics for group management. Never mind the fact that I’ve played ball in high school. Never mind the fact that I’ve coached basketball before.

No. I sat there watching as the voicemail notifications in my heart began to pile up. 1…2…3….

I left practice that day with drills dancing in my head, and ideas of how I would have run practice similarly or differently. Perhaps it was good that I didn’t jump in. I wanted to let this coach do his job his way. But as I continued to reflect – and as I listened to those voicemails one by one, I pondered why I had not answered the call in the first place. Why did I let it go to voicemail?

Oftentimes, we are faced with opportunities. And some of these choices, like a phone call, need to be answered in 20 seconds or less.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m just not comfortable with that. My attitude towards answering calls has changed with the invention of caller ID and voicemail. I can choose to answer later. I can choose to think about calling someone back. I can filter which calls I want to answer. And as time went on, I found myself not answering calls altogether. (Except those from my husband and kids’ schools – because…well…emergencies, right?)

There’s nothing wrong with this shift in attitude…right? I mean we don’t have to answer every call. That would drive us crazy and we’d have no time to rest.

But what about the calls from God?

Have we shifted our thinking so much that we abuse our gift of free will and put His calls through to voicemail? Do we look at the caller ID, recognize the number, and find ourselves in a bit of a panic, wondering whether or not we should answer it? Do you find at times that in the seconds that ticked away while trying to make a decision, you missed the opportunity to answer and all that remains is a glaring notification? A reminder of the call on your heart.

And then, we try to justify it. Well, I just needed to pray about it first. Or, I’ll call back. Or, If that was really something God wants me to do, He’ll give me another opportunity.

But friends, what if that was your shot? I mean, really. If God was asking you to do something, do we really need to take time to pray about it? After all, you recognized the number, and you KNOW it’s Him. Could it be, that our own insecurities are to blame? Or maybe its our flat out laziness – not wanting to deal with the situation, or “hear” what God is calling us to do. Voicemail has become our escape, our excuse. And then we fill our spaces up with other activities, ignoring the notification alerts. We are to “busy” to answer His call.

I hate to break this to you, but unlike the other calls we get IRL, God knows that you know it’s Him, and that you are purposefully ignoring His call. Ouch. Yes, the reality of it all hurts. But can you imagine His hurt when we send Him to voicemail?

“But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” Genesis 3:9

He knows where we are. He knows what we’re doing. If we keep ignoring His calls, He will stop calling us. Sooner or later, we will no longer recognize His number. And if it goes long enough between calls, we will lose sight of the Kingdom.

Matthew 22:2-10 and Luke 14:16-24 both tell Jesus’ parable of the wedding/great feast. In it, He tells of a great party of which many were invited to, but those many did not answer the call, and they not only miss out on the great feast, but faced severe consequences.

Friends, if you miss God’s calling, He will call someone else.

It’s scary. I know. It’s scary to answer the call. It’s scary to have missed the call. But our God is a God of Mercy, Grace, and Forgiveness! Have you missed His calls? I certainly have. But it’s not the end of the world! You see, all we have to do is call Him back. Seek Him! Ask forgiveness, ask direction, and then get into action! It is not too late.

Here is a prayer I pray often. Perhaps you’d like to pray it with me today:

Lord, I’m so sorry I missed your call. I was scared to pick up. I didn’t know if I was equipped. Or maybe I was feeling a bit selfish with my own time. Forgive me. Here I am, ready and willing to do what you will have for me. I know you will light my path. I know you will equip me with whatever is needed to carry out your plan. Thank you for entrusting me with this. I step out in faith knowing that You will be with me every step of the way. May this work bring me closer to You, Lord, and closer to being more like Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Freshly convicted, after my daughter’s first game, I walked up to the coach and congratulated him as it was his first game as well. And after a few moments, I asked if he’d like any assistance during the practices or games. I’d bring my shoes to the next practice, and would be more than happy to help out.

The coach looked a little surprised at first, but he happily welcomed the help – especially after my two daughters totally called me out as a former teacher and basketball coach. He looked a little taken aback with this new information and asked why I wasn’t coaching.  I answered him a little sheepishly, knowing that I had put those calls through to voicemail. There is no doubt that I will be checking that box on the next go-around, but for now, helping him work with our current team is what I’m being called to do.

Friends, it is time. He is calling. What will you do?

Further thought and discussion:  Was there a moment recently when you know God was calling you to do something, but you let Him go to voicemail? How did that decision make you feel? Do you think of calling Him back? What’s holding you back? I encourage you to plan your next action steps and share with us in the comments below.

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