I often get asked by people I meet in public, "How did you know this was your calling?", or something close to this. My answer is often different from other Priests I've known, in that I received what I call "the burning bush." That is to say, I didn't just feel drawn to this vocation, I was literally called by God to be a Priest. So "the calling" wasn't subtle. But it wasn't a command either. It was an invitation at first, followed by a few years of constant reminders that the invitation had been sent. Hounding really.
I struggled for 3 years to accept this invitation. I even went to several people to try to get them to talk me out of it. It didn't work. Friends, family, other Priests, all of them said, "You really proabably ought to do this if God is still leaving messages."
Once I finally stopped fighting this call, I noticed a significant change in my life. There had been other things I'd been saying "No" or "Not me" to, and once I decided to make my life about pursuing holiness instead of hiding from it, life got a lot easier. I was happer. I made more money. I found others who enjoyed talking about the real things in life rather than the regular mundane day-to-day routine we can so easily fall into when we don't look for a balance in life that includes a pursuit of holiness.
My answer to God wasn't just a "Yes," it was an "I will," and I've said it a few times since:
"Will you be diligent in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures, and in seeking the knowledge of such things as may make you a stronger and more able minister of Christ?"
"Will you endeavor so to minister the Word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?"
"Will you undertake to be a faithful pastor to all whom you are called to serve, laboring together with them and with your fellow ministers to build up the family of God?"
"Will you do your best to pattern your life and that of your family in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?"
"Will you persevere in prayer, both in public and in private, asking God’s grace, both for yourself and for others, offering all your labors to God, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, and in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit?"
These were not the only times I said "I will," but these occasions did mark a moment of change, because shortly thereafter, I was consecrated a Priest, and there is no going back. I'm not only obligated, I have been consecrated--set aside for the purposes and plans of a God that loves you and uses me to prove it.
Answering a call to holiness does not usually seem all that easy, because we always have trouble letting go of those things we should say "No" to. But I can assure you that saying "Yes" to God, saying "Yes" to the movement of the Spirit within you, and saying "Yes" to a pursuit of holiness instead of fighting it WILL make your daily life flow more naturally, because holiness IS what you were made for from the beginning. We were made for perfection. We choose brokenness.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm definitely a broken individual. I'm definitely an imperfect Priest, let alone an imperfect person, although there really isn't much difference in our rules versus anyone else's--we just have more accountability. We all have those moments when we don't feel up to the task, or up to the standard of God's call. But we're not alone. St. Paul had the same feeling when distracted by temptation and his own brokenness. And what was God's answer to him?
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."(2nd Corinthians 12:9)
God is calling. Have you answered? We have! And we invite you to know God the way we do. The God who makes miracles out of weaknesses. The God who makes saints out of sinners. The God who makes a Priest out of a young foul-mouthed bartender like myself...and this isn't anything new; the Apostles were around my age when they were called, and just as stubborn; Moses was probably younger than I am now, and he had a Church of over 1,000,000 people! Our Lord himself began his ministry at my age, and managed to secure the salvation of the whole world in under 3 years. What could you do? Answer and see!
Grace and Peace to you all!
-The Rev. Jon C. Jenkins+ SSC
Rector of Christ the King, Fort Worth