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.”
8 thoughts on “What Now Do You Ask of Me?”
Paula, I needed to hear this right now. I’m currently struggling with the grueling nature of my call to church planting, and the feeling that this is not what I expected. And yet, whenever I consider other options, I feel even more strongly that I’m where God wants me to be. I’m praying for courage to stay and clarity for next steps.
Wow. Beautiful words. May God bless you in everything that He calls you to.
Sometimes I wonder if God still has something for me now that I realized that I have GD and trying to figure out what to do with it and how can I serve Him still.
When the time comes, I hope to be brave enough to say “Yes God”.
Thank you Paula, yet again, for this deeply powerful and Spirit-guided reflection!
As with Abram, your calling certainly is to places far from home. But, as always in Scripture, there is a through-line in all of the wholeness and brokenness of your story, a through-line that you’re surely wise to keep in view, in spite of the pain. Part of that through-line, which runs from the calling of Paul -> the calling of Paula, is that you still are — in important ways — that person who “NAILS THE READ” so powerfully, so consistently, and on so many levels. You understand more than anyone how that particular gift has come to be owned now by Paula, and there are clearly pangs of gratitude and nostalgia for the fruits of that gift that came earlier along the way, and for how Paul’s hands managed to survive long enough to hand them off to you.
And it must be so painful to not be able to share your lifetime scrapbooks etc with broad ranges of people in hopes of them really “getting”, even in a rudimentary way, your whole journey, complete with its continuities and discontinuities.
And I am so grateful for the energy, spirit and hard work that you devote to sharing what you can, in the ways you can, through this blog (and in other modes of ministry)! Your sharing is SO powerful, beautiful and important, giving me both sustenance and orientation in my own wilderness wandering, and helping me connect more easily and imaginatively with others.
ROCK ON, Paula!
God bless you, Barry
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Okay Barry, now that kinda made me cry. Your words are so insightful and so very thoughtful. Thank you.
I knew that man too. I liked him. I considered him a friend. For reasons unknown to me he saw something in my work and writing. He gave me a platform for my work. The guy in the videos and television influenced my life and reinforced my call as a writer and artist. I heard poetry and learned about Merton and Richard Rohr and others outside my tribe. When he recited Wild Geese by Mary Oliver I sensed his yearning to express his authentic self – even though I had no idea what that would mean for him or what expression it would take or what it would cost him. Through the poem “LOST” by David Whyte that man stirred me with the quote ” Stand still. The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.”
But, in the words of Mary Oliver, my friend knew what he had to do, and heard a new voice, which he slowly recognized as his own. So Paula did the only thing she could do, and determined to save the only life that she could save. And I get it. And I’m proud of her for saying “Yes God, what now do you ask of me?” My nostaligia for what was shrivels before the wonder of what now is. Keep writing Paula.
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Thank you so much Jim.
I really struggle, too, having a body of work written under a name that’s really uncomfortable to hear. Am I a different person from that author? Maybe, maybe not; my work is the same