What Now Do You Ask of Me?
Two nights ago I was clearing files from my Macbook when I found three videos of my days as a television host. One was a show on which I was an executive producer. The second was an outdoor video we shot at Canyonlands National Park. The third was a show about classical music shot in an empty concert hall in Knoxville. In all three I was the on-air host. Watching the videos put me in a reflective mood.
Our national television program was on the air from 1992 through 2013. During most of those years we were in 70 markets around the nation. I loved my time in television, particularly the 15 years I spent on air. I loved the challenge of shooting in nature, where it was imperative that when there were finally no external distractions, the host better nail the “read.” The days were long and hard, but incredibly satisfying.
After enjoying the videos, I started thinking about the person who appeared on camera. I know that man. I have warm feelings toward him, and the life he lived. I know how hard he tried to get it right, and how often he missed the mark. I like that man, but I do not want to be him. I know how hard he struggled. And I know that man was called to move on.
Still, I was proud of the work I had done. Yesterday morning I showed one of the videos to two of my coworkers. One recognized in short order that the video was of me. He has seen pictures of Paul. The other wondered why I was showing her a video about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. She’s not seen a picture of Paul. To be known only as the woman I am is gratifying. But there was an ancillary sadness. I was proud of that work, yet my friend did not know it was me on camera talking about Beethoven’s Ninth.
I puzzled over my feelings for the remainder of the day. Late in the evening I called my friend Jennifer who lives on the left coast and was still awake. I told her of my struggle and identified it as an issue of transgender integration. That is not where her thoughts took her. Jennifer talked about Genesis 12:1, when God called Abram to leave his old life and enter a new land, “I will show you.”
As soon as she referenced Genesis 12:1, I knew the truth of her words. Yesterday’s struggle was not about integration. It was about call. The call of God is always from something comfortable and known to something unseen and unknown. God did not say to Abram, “Come to this land that is right here on the other side of the fence.” The call of God is always to a land yet to be seen. And often, traveling to that land means leaving a good life behind.
In yesterday’s case it was good work once seen by thousands (if not millions) but now sitting in a videotape canister God knows where. Good work from a previous call, but not my current call. The work of this call is still in production, unedited. The land to which I am called is barely in view, and only through a glass darkly.
I was called to be Paula. I was called back to the church. Now I am called back to ministry in the local church. I also feel strongly called to stand in support of the women (and men, but mostly the women) who will bring the heart of Christ and wisdom of the Spirit back into the life of the church. The church desperately needs their female guidance.
When Odysseus returned to Ithaca he did not get to remain for long before he was called by a blind prophet onto another journey, inland this time, with nothing but an oar for company. Apparently this is the way of those willing to accept the call of God. (For we are all called. That is not the question. The question is whether or not we accept our call.) There will not be just one call. There will be more. Sometimes I wonder if they are even bound by time. I do not wonder, however, about the proper response:
“Yes, God, what now do you ask of me.”