The races on the playground of my elementary school were legendary. The winner’s accolade was bragging rights as the “fastest” runner and was fiercely sought after.
“Let’s race!” would sound and a group of schoolmates mustered between two trees which always served as the starting line. The course went around the big slide at the far end of the play area and then made a left going through a narrow gap formed by the monkey bars and a smaller slide. It ended with a long dash back to the trees and an imaginary winner’s tape.
The race began with the traditional: Ready, set, go! But many times, the runners were called back because of someone jumping out front before “go!” It was understandable. The excitement at the start was always high.
Although I had come close to winning a few times, I never did. Well, I never did until I changed my strategy. It wasn’t a revolutionary idea, but I was sure it would help me cross the finish line first.
One day at recess, I stepped off the course counting the paces between the course markers and back to the two trees. Later that afternoon, I recreated the course in my yard and began to practice. I was going to be ready.
Sadly, I didn’t win the next race or the next. But I still practiced. I practiced and practiced and practiced.
The leaves were turning and falling, painting the ground in gold and red. The morning sun made their colors glow as we lined up between the two trees.
“Ready, set, go!”
The start was perfect and I broke out in front before reaching the big slide. I made it through the gap before my best friend Buddy made a charge to pass me.
In my mind’s eye, I saw myself crossing the winner’s line in my yard. I had done it a million times.I gathered my strength, leaned forward and looking over my shoulder, I crossed the line and won the race.I learned preparing for a task was essential and worth every effort.
My youngest daughter Mary called with a special request. She told me that the church where her husband was student minister desired to ordain the couple to the Gospel Ministry. She and Alan are both divinity students. She asked me to present the charge to the candidates as part of their ordination service.
Of course, I agreed.
It’s very unique for married couples to be ordained at the same time. One North Carolina minister friend could not ever remember knowing of an instance. It’s very fitting for this couple.
Standing before the congregation at Boiling Springs Baptist Church on September 17, I testified that the two candidates have felt God’s calling on their lives since each one was a child. I told those listening that family and friends could testify to witnessing the “stirring” in their hearts as teens. I was one who, like others, wondered, “How will God use this one?” Since marrying almost three years ago, they have served Christ in ministry as individuals and as a couple. And now, the church had taken steps to affirm their calling.
In my charge, I told the couple that they stood at a gate looking upon fields prepared by God, anticipating their futures. Then, I asked, “Are you ready?”
Whether you are called into relationship with Jesus to serve Him in everyday life or called in addition to vocational ministry, the question is the same.
So how do you know if you are ready? Begin by loving Jesus more, practice listening to the Holy Spirit, and study the Word daily. If you fail or faulter? Stand at the starting line again, and keep on. God does the rest. It is His grace that brings the victory. He is the one who makes you fit for the calling.
Ready, set go!