I used to be a radical.
After high school, I moved to Hawaii to be part of YWAM (Youth With A Mission), a spiritual organization built in a community where individuals discover God and are empowered to help others do the same.
But to everyone else, they see people enacting crazy change (often never even realizing they are YWAMers). It is the change they create which is partially what makes them so radical. Flowing from a love for God, our global society has been remolded because of YWAMers who have genuinely helped the oppressed, misused, poor, and unloved. (Now I know a lot of you aren’t followers of God, but I think we are all down with the “loving people” thing, which is what YWAM embodies, even though sometimes they make mistakes.) The difference they’ve made in the world for good is great.
I loved being part of something great, bigger than myself.
I thrived in a team that encouraged me to jump, move, go.
YWAM taught me to practice bravery, what being alive looked like, and what faith in action could be for the good of others. I was transformed by its mission.
Truth be told, I’ve heard people call it a cult, as they are radical, but if they are a cult, they are a cult in the same way the Marines are. Because being part of a team that will give their lives for others only builds us into the best versions of ourselves.
But even though my life was radically transformed as I was a radical during my time with YWAM, I still wasn’t exactly sure what my role as a world changer was coming out of it (for example, here I am struggling with the idea of calling).
The Burning Bush
A major theme often spoke of in YWAM is the burning bush. It comes from a story in the Bible about Moses (like in the The Prince of Egypt). Moses grew up privileged, as an adopted son (errr…grandson) of Pharaoh. Then one day he became aware of the fact that his people of origin were living in slavery. Moses couldn’t stand to watch this oppression happening in front of him. In a righteous passion, Moses killed an Egyptian guy who was beating one of his fellow Israelites.
It didn’t take long before Moses realized that:
- He couldn’t kill every person he saw abusing his people (Moses wasn’t Rambo).
- He would have to run for his life, being in trouble for killing the first guy.
So Moses fled, eventually leading a totally different life, having a family and being a shepherd in the desert. I assume Moses obsessed about his people, so far away, during that time because that is probably what I would do. Or maybe he did everything in his power to try to forget about the Hebrews as he assumed he couldn’t do anything about it. Regardless, almost forty years later, God took Moses’ discontent–a holy discontent–at the oppression of the Israelites by sending him back to Egypt as a humbled man to bring the Hebrews out of Egypt.
The Burning Bush
When God showed up in the desert to direct Moses back to Egypt, He mystically appeared in a bush/shrub/tree that just kept burning and burning without actually being burned (which is just awesome!).
Yep. A burning bush. (It was probably more like burning shrubbery but that doesn’t sounds as cool.)
As you can see, from Moses’ story a smart Bible teacher got the idea of calling your unique calling a burning bush. And the question I thought about a lot as a YWAM radical was, “What is your burning bush?”
My Holy Discontent
A few years back I read a book by Bill Hybels, Holy Discontent: Fueling the Fire That Ignites Personal Vision. I really don’t remember much about this book. I’m not really sure if it was good or bad. But I do know that while I was reading it something clicked. I finally figured out how to channel the passions that had been tauntingly swirling around in me for the five years since I had moved to the D.C. suburbs, very far away from my YWAM world.
My burning bush went hand-and-hand with my holy discontent.
So what is a holy discontent? A holy discontent is something that irks and angers you. It is the wrong that should be right. It doesn’t have to be a feeling. It can be a fact. It is where evil has tipped something over that once-upon-a-time was created as good. It is a worthy passion for something to be made better.
Of course, most of this makes sense in the context of my faith as a follower of Jesus, within the context that we all sin, the world is affected by evil, and we desire for redemption (or breaking-free of the evil).
But, Christian or not, regardless of whether people know why exactly they are driven for this better world, every single do-gooder, advocate and activist I’ve met is motivated by a holy discontent. (Learn more about what drives you by using this Core Identity worksheet).
Burning Bush + Holy Discontent = Calling
We all have seen something that isn’t right and are fighting for what we believe is best. Again, we can always be misguided in our passions. But I can assure you, eventually you will discover something that doesn’t sit right with you because it isn’t right. That is your holy discontent.
My passions bloomed after I was a radical, when I was adapting to normal life in the suburbs. A few of these, like poverty and injustice, are as obvious as a broken-down red corvette clogging two lanes of rush hour traffic would be. I had discontent with things that weren’t right. But I didn’t know what to do about them. I was still missing my burning bush, the knowledge of what I should do with what I was driven by.
I was plagued for years, fighting to do something to fix the wrongs.
What I had failed to realize was that poverty and oppression aren’t what irked me the most. What plagued more was that my own people, Americans, are either unaware or indifferent to what is going on in the world. And I was bothered by the fact I could just as easily be blinded myself.
I felt the passion. I smelled the burning fire and heard it cracking. I had just been standing with the burning bush at my back, while I stared an impossible wasteland.
I was looking the wrong direction.
So, I turned my efforts around, focusing on learning to humbly lead those around me rather than having my focus on those far away who I believe we are called to love.
What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do
A Human Trafficking Organization I am part of hosted the film Not My Life a couple of weeks ago (read more here). We were prepared with a cool brochure, giving people 27 things to do (representing the 27 million slaves in our world) in response to those whose eyes were opened to the evil of human trafficking. We had tables. More brochures. Books. Information.
We also had great cookies.
And we stood around hoping someone, anyone would ask us questions. We were ready. We were ready to bond together, welcoming the newbies to our pack of local abolitionists.
What is easy to forget though, is that us “who were ready” have actually been on this journey awhile. We have had time to process our holy discontent. We know what bush is burning.
But for others who heard about modern day slavery for the first time, it was overwhelming. They might have been given 27 ideas of things to do, but that doesn’t actually mean these individuals have a clue of what to do. Which thing is the right thing to do? What should they do after they do that first thing? Maybe they shouldn’t do anything at all . . .
Those “who were ready” didn’t know what the documentary viewers’ journey looked like. We can walk with them on it. We can even give them a general map. But we don’t know what God is saying to them through the burning bush. As much as we’d like to, we can’t tell them who they are or how to respond to their new discontent.
I was bothered by modern-day slavery for almost six years before I found myself at peace with how I should respond to it. And often I still wonder why I didn’t feel content before this (because I was still doing other little deeds) and I often wonder if I should even feel content now (its not like modern slavery has ended).
I guess what I am saying is this:
- It’s hard to know what to do.
- Sometimes its easier to ignore a holy discontent.
- The journey is the destination as much as the destination is.
Become Even More Uncomfortable
Some of the wisest, and most annoyingly stupid guidance I’ve ever heard on this subject was actually in that book, Holy Discontent. The advice is to pretty much make yourself become more discontent.
Instead of forgetting, remind yourself. Read about it. Learn about it. If you can, see it first hand and make it personal. Don’t just decide on one goal, checking it off your list, thinking you have completed your responsibility. Instead, soak yourself in your discontent.
Because, in that, your discontent will start burning you, even miserably begin to consume you. And somewhere in that flame, if not a calling, at least a next step will show itself.
The Bible is full of stories of people who had no clue what to do. Moses didn’t know what to do. Nehemiah and Jeremiah were weeping very distraught men because they didn’t know what to do with the situations that bothered them. But all of them processed it with God until He directed them forward.
If something in this world bothers you, why not at least try to ask God about it? Why not see what He says about it? Even if you don’t believe in God, or even like Him–could it hurt to ask? To send the question, “What can I do?” echoing into the cosmos?
I’m just throwing it out there, but I think He probably has something to say.
Being is Guiding
Don’t be discouraged when you don’t know what to do. Myself and so many others would be happy to walk you through your journey. We can give you specialized ideas to carry out in action, responding to what bothers you. We can attempt to map out a solution for your discontent.
We might inspire you to change the world, but what we can’t do is to give you a burning bush, directing you to your perfect response. (Heck, now years after I first wrote this post I actually coach people through this process–even though I still can’t give them their perfect answer). The perfect response only comes from being with the One who put the holy discontent within you in the first place.
Seeking, learning, processing . . . and just being you as you wait for the fire to speak.
And that is okay. Because being before doing is the best way to change the world.
Want More On Knowing Your Calling?
Check out these posts if you are interested in seeking out your purpose:
This post was edited in December, 2017.