My favorite part of these clergy interviews is hearing how they discerned their call to ministry, and the path toward surrendering to that call.
Benson was called as a teen, during an altar call at Falls Creek, the Oklahoma Baptist summer camp and conference center in the Arbuckle Mountains. In a moment of hesitation, Benson made what he thought was a “safe bet” with God.
“I said, ‘Well, God, if someone else from the church goes forward, I’ll go forward,’” he said. “I thought it was a pretty safe bet, because no one from our church had gone forward all week. But, God led one girl in our youth group to go forward to give herself to God, and I said ‘OK, God,’ and I went forward and surrendered to vocational ministry at 14 years old.”
His story is remarkable. But, I’d like to focus for a moment on that girl — the one who unwittingly led Benson to a life of ministry.
I doubt that girl knew the impact of her steps to the altar that day. She was going to accept God — tremendous in itself. But, she also had a permanent impact on Benson, and perhaps others around her, most likely without ever knowing it.
I thought again about that girl’s steps to the altar on Wednesday, on the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, or the Feast of the Assumption.
In Luke 1:26-38, the angel Gabriel told Mary she had found favor with God. That favor would mean hardship, ostracism and a possible death sentence. In response, the girl from Nazareth said simply: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Most of us won’t be called to such sacrifice for God. Most won’t be called to ordained ministry. But we all will be called, dozens of times a day, to say ‘Yes’ to God, to answer simply: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
These calls, by and large, won’t be grand demonstrations. In most cases, we won’t see the end results. But, like the girl in Pastor Billy Benson’s story, when we say ‘Yes,’ we will impact the lives of others in powerful ways.
In Benson’s story, and in Mary’s example, I believe we’re all faced with this challenge: How can we say ‘Yes’ to God today? What are the small ways we can reflect Christ to those around us?
A simple smile to a stranger. A small act of kindness. A prayer for someone who has wronged you. Sometimes, it’s just putting one foot in front of the other, into uncertainty. When those calls come, say ‘Yes.’
We may never see the impact of those small acts. But it is there, rippling through the Body of Christ. And, when we live for those ‘Yes’ moments, without fear for ourselves, we can join with Mary in proclaiming, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”