Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Original Article Not Fit for Public Consumption in Down Times

As a young man I was twice fired from pastoring churches--once by a Nazarene District Superintendent who condemned my practice of turning over public worship to the pentecostals--the other by a tea totaler at an independent community church who didn't want me to drink beer with the local rugby team. These rejections fueled my anger at God and man and provided the excuses I needed for 30 years of self indulgence. Three decades that included international art celebrity, three wives, 4 children, and 5 grandchildren--interesting mix. Divorce, custody battles, and many strange relationships tweek with one's sense of godly vocation. At 62, having just applied for social security, I am asked to write about vocational discernment. The timing is perfect. I am now old enough to have a "ministry" and forgiving enough not to want to kill a few people. The good news is that I recently experienced an exorcism that expurgated the demons of judgement, womanizing, and idolatry--idolatry defined as jealously toward those more successful than I. It was a slow exorcism consisting of 10 years of Jungian Therepy and fairly unconditional acceptance from a few weird, long time, christian buddies. I have to re-boot my deliverance weekly by attending communion at the local Episcopalian Church. Dining on the bread and wine is for me a non-intellectual act of worship filled with massive grace. I get so blessed that I often ditch the rest of the proceedings just to test my renewed faith on the golf course.

Moses comes to mind--youthful, religious, spiritual, discerning, anxious to follow God's will--murders the wrong guy, cools down for 40 years, and then returns as an old dude to Pharo's court with a beard, a holy stick, and great God given authority--come on!--I saw The Ten Commandments! I have the beard (goat-tee), the holy stick (my art), and the God given authority (the Holy Ghost). I have finally entered " the ministry"--and the congregation said...what the hell?

Most of the time I am so happy I can hardly stand it. I have prayed that God help me see all men as He sees them and that He guide me in everything I say and do--sometimes I think He has answered this prayer. If I had been this discerning thiry years ago, I would be pastoring a mega-church in Texas, going to book signings, and offering prayers at inaugurations--right? Maybe not. I may not have lasted this long. Anyway I really believe the end is greater than the beginning in our great quest for christian vocation and that we live in an economy of grace that has little to do with the rhythm of existence portrayed my media, by well meaning christian cogitators, and by our innate greed. What I am saying is that you will probably not discern your vacation until you are sixty years old--no sooner. It's a slow learning curve--like golf. It took Moses fourty years to learn to putt!

O yes, I am a serious Christian--but I try not to act like it, and I have found my vocation --better, my vocation found me. I did not seek God in this life--He sought me. I did not believe in God--He believed in me. I did not obey God in life--rather I ran out of options that were not suicidal and found God waiting. Is that Calvinistic enough? Sometimes I think I have thrown conditionality out the window, and, worse yet, I think I am slipping into the doctrine of universal salvation.

Keeping your vocational discernment operative has to do with surviving your first 10,000 mistakes so that you can make 10,000 more. Anybody who thinks he will not repeat errors many times is a fool. You resist temptation today, but tomorrow the countours have changed, and the devil comes in a different form--remind you of anybody? I think we are designed by God to fail. How do we survive our errors, mitakes, sins against man and God? I am not sure. But, you have!-- or you wouldn't be reading this. The Book Of Common Prayer says that we serve a God whose property it is to forgive sins--we don't believe this. That is why we constantly take judgement into our own hands. But it is judgement that keeps us from our vocation--we judge ourselves and others constantly--and wrongly--because we are summoned to leave all judgement to God alone. I know this is difficult to hear: but judgement leads to fear, fear leads to hate, hate restricts vocation.

Vocational discernment is the path and the goal. The discernment part is the hard thing. What is discernment? Again, God discerns us--we don't discern God. I believe that it is God Himself who aligns us with Himself. What you do with your day, then, is between you and God--nobody else. How God gets through to us is a mystery and a miracle isn't it? It is difficult to endure the doubts that God can direct your steps at times--no, nearly all the time. Just for fun try telling anyone that you are following God in this or that. The weight of judgement is immediately apparent--you don't have to tell enemies to feel this--your friends will do! Don't talk about your faith much , pray a ton, and don't let your failings disqualify you from your God appointed vocation--and you will be well on your way to some joy--maybe a lot. Who knows?--you may end up a happy man with a descent job..but then again...? I was wondering recently what the graduating picture of the 2009 Vocational Discernment class would look like-- probably not very pretty. The first class of Vocational Discernment picture is embedded in Hebrew chapter 11--those guys that were sawn in two are really ugly! So don't expect a continuous run of successes leading you to a position at the Seminary teaching eager youth.

Well I think this is about 900 words, and weren't they full of discernment? In conclusion vocational discernment is what is left after you have tried everything else and failed. It is what Moses had walking back to Egypt for a visit with old friends, its what Paul got laying flat on his back after a fall, its what you have this day in Christ. Vocational discernment is a state of grace and may not lead to a nifty job tag. It is what remains after trying everything else and failing. Its what we do, and have when we don't have to ask what it is anymore. Its about keeping our mouth shut and doing the big obvious thing--all else will definitely follow--that's a promise. Isn't our one and only creaturely vocation to love God and to enjoy his presence forever--that is our final vocation. There are no golden boys in God's kingdon--only somewhat ordinary humans.... and golfers. See ya down the road--Don Hatfield


  1. This really struck a chord with me. Some days I really don't want to paint, and the argument really comes down to me being obedient to God and what He is asking me to do. I often wonder why I am painting. There are people younger than me that have already mastered the art. The drive to succeed NOW is sometimes overwhelming. Then I think, it really doesn't matter if I succeed in the world's eyes. I desire to master painting, but not for fame. I want to master it merely to communicate to people their worth as a child of God, and to be obedient to the call.

  2. I wasn't going to comment, but this is so great. I am laughing and crying at the same time.

  3. Hey: I really do believe what I wrote--more than ever as time marches on--Don

  4. Don, I tell you, as someone I would wish as my friend, that I am one who feels no theist presence. Yet I am moved by your struggles and I appreciate your candid and naked witness. I fear most who say they are "following God's directions" because usually that seems to call for burning someone, if not in this life, then the next. "Unconditional salvation" maybe heresy but it springs inevitably from love of humanity. Beautiful.

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  6. Since, as you know by now, I speak for Jesus, I want to say that I am sure he agrees with your view of "unconditional salvation". I was those following "God's directions" that nailed him to a tree. The only people I consign to hell are those who inspire great jealously in me!

  7. "I did not seek God in this life--He sought me. I did not believe in God--He believed in me. I did not obey God in life--rather I ran out of options that were not suicidal and found God waiting."

    This is really profound and unless you have been faced with a crisis, you probably won't understand it. Thanks for sharing.