On Calling and Cultivating Mustard Seeds

Today we continue our weeklong focus on vocation here on Memoirs of Algeisha. To read the first post, click here. I’m excited to delve into vocation, calling, passion, and obedience together.


On Calling and Cultivating Mustard Seeds

“Oh, so you’re completely messed up right now,” she replied when I told her about the study abroad program I had just returned from, more of a statement than a question. She sat cross-legged in the corner of our on-campus apartment, the soles of her thrift store sneakers worn and ragged, unaltered like her gray-streaked hair.

My friends turned to me in a whoosh of curls, highlights, and curiosity.
“Yes, I’m completely messed up,” I responded, unapologetically.
“Wait, what?” “Yeah, Aly, what?” My friends wondered, but I offered nothing more.
She gave me a smile and I knew right then that we shared a secret language, a code.
A code that would bring me back from the edge.
***
I have a friend and mentor who is incredible with college students. When I came back from a traumatic study abroad experience, she was the only one who understood right off the bat. She saw my questions about God and the church and U.S. foreign policy as engagement of my faith, not a rejection of it. She saw my anger as a sign of compassion, not rebellion. She listened, she validated, she understood my shopping guilt and inability to open my Bible. She challenged me to move beyond the anger. She called me out of wallowing. She demonstrated a life of compassion and intentionality. She gave me hope in the body of Christ.
When I graduated she gave me a present, a small, glass picture frame that at first glance looks empty. But if you look hard enough, in the center of the white paper backing is a small yellowish dot—a mustard seed. It’s tiny, smaller than I pictured when we recited the verse in Sunday School, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20
In an angry, questioning, depressed college student, she saw and cultivated a mustard seed of faith.
Recently I had lunch with her and the topic of calling and vocation came up. She said to me of her work with college students, of the shattering and rebuilding of worldviews, of developing a faith of our own, “I could do that cycle over and over again, forever.”
It wasn’t just me that she impacted. Her faith in me transformed my life and, in turn, spilled over into my relationships, my career, my spheres of influence. And it’s not just me that she’s mentored. I can’t even begin to count the number of students who would call her a most trusted friend and mentor.
She has a calling, a vocation, to work with college students.
When I think of Frederick Buechner’s wise words, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” I think of my mentor.  (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC)
I think of the deep gladness she finds in friendship with college students. I think of the deep hunger for understanding and connection I felt when I returned from Central America, broken and despondent. I think of the mustard seed that blossomed into a flourishing tree in my life and in the lives of so many other students.
That is what I want to find. A calling that brings me deep gladness and meets the world’s deepest hungers. I have ideas of what this looks like. I experienced it for a time at Plant With Purpose, finding deep gladness in writing for an organization that meets deep hunger in developing countries.
As I move forward, I will continue to keep my eyes peeled and my spirit open to the mustard seeds of hope, of joy and faith that God is calling me to cultivate in the world around me.
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