Bound in the Spirit

In my office, I keep a painting of the mountain pictured above. Its name is Slemish, and it is where Ireland's most famous resident began to find his life's calling.

Surprisingly, Saint Patrick wasn't actually Irish. He lived in Britain, the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest. Yet as a boy, Patrick did not have a strong faith. He was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16, and taken as a slave to tend sheep on Slemish Mountain. While watching the sheep, his faith began to deepen; in his autobiography, Patrick describes how he began to pray "up to one hundred times" each day, and how he "would rise to pray before dawn in snow and ice and rain." Eventually Patrick escaped from his slavery and returned home to Britain. But when he was home, he began to have a series of dreams and visions; he believed that God was calling him to return to Ireland and spread the Christian faith there. He responded to that call, reaching out to the people who had enslaved him and becoming the first missionary to Ireland. 

One of the most interesting things about Patrick is that he didn't particularly want to minister among the Irish. In his autobiography, Patrick wrote:

"I could wish to leave [the Irish] to go to Britain. I would willingly do this, and am prepared for this, so to visit my home country and my parents....God knows what I would dearly like to. But I am bound in the Spirit, who assures me that if I were to do this, I would be held guilty. And I fear, also, to lose the work which I began – not so much I as Christ the Lord, who told me to come here to be with these people for the rest of my life. May the Lord will it, and protect me from every wrong path, so that I do not sin before him..."

I keep a painting of Slemish Mountain in my office because Patrick's desire to give up on his call to Ireland really resonates with me. I, too,  am sometimes tempted to give up some of the callings in my own life. In particular, I sometimes think about what it would be like to leave ministry, and how much simpler life could be if I didn't work in a church. Yet for one reason or another, I always feel bound to remain true to this calling. It gives me hope to know that others, like Patrick, have felt this struggle too–yet have somehow found a way to hold onto their calling.

What in your life do you feel called to? Do you feel called to a friendship, a career, a ministry, or a church family? Are you ever tempted to give up on something that you feel God has called you to? Ask God for wisdom to discern between the many "calls" in your life, so that you may hear clearly what God is truly calling you to. And most of all, pray that God would give you the strength to remain true to your call.

–Andrew Garnett