Did you ever work a “connect the dots” puzzle as a kid? I loved those little sheets that would turn into a picture once the dots were connected sequentially. There was a great sense of satisfaction that came with knowing exactly how to put things together and see the image emerge.
As we journey through life, we might struggle with connecting the dots of our own story. We wonder “what is my purpose?” or “am I too old to have a new dream?” Much of it centers around the question of our calling. And hearing others’ stories can be tremendously enlightening as we wrestle through our own discovery process.
Recently, I was fortunate to hear a powerful testimony about following one’s calling. It was given in July 2013 by Dr. Kent Brantley. This heroic doctor, currently fighting for his life from ebola, was explaining why he and his family were moving to Liberia to serve as medical missionaries. He used the analogy of “connecting the dots” of his life to explain how his calling came into focus.
Regardless of how you feel about Dr. Brantley’s being brought back to the US for ebola treatment, I hope you’ll take 18 minutes and listen to his message. (Here’s a link: http://t.co/3va0HSZafy) It’s filled with wisdom, and is especially riveting in light of the fact that his decision to following his calling could cost him his life.
He admits: “I never heard the voice of God say clearly: ‘Kent, you need to become a doctor and go to Liberia to be a missionary.’” Rather, Dr. Brantley shares that the calling was the cumulative result of countless people investing in him, the impact of those who modeled Christlike servanthood with their own lives, woven together with his many life experiences.
These words particularly struck me: “I heard your words of encouragement when you said ‘I’m proud of you.’ I heard your words of affirmation when I made wise life decisions. I heard your words of love and forgiveness when I made poor decisions. It may not seem like much, but when you connect the dots, you see a grand picture that God has used to draw my life in a certain direction.”
He also discussed the importance of momentum. Of taking steps forward even though we don’t see a roadmap with every twist and turn our life will take in the future. He recalls hearing the analogy that it’s hard to steer a parked car. “In other words, If you’re sitting around, waiting to hear God’s voice, waiting for him to direct you and to hear a specific plan for your life, then you’re like a parked car, unable to be guided or directed.”
What would Dr. Brantley say now? Did he make a mistake going to Liberia and treating ebola patients, only to contract it himself? Did he misunderstand God’s calling on his life?
I pray that he will soon be well enough to answer those questions. But it’s highly unlikely he will express an ounce of regret. He has saved countless lives. He has demonstrated the love of Christ in tangible, beautiful ways. And because of this horrible disease, his story has been heard by people across the world.
Are there dots in your own life you need to connect? Do you need to move forward to gain momentum and perspective? Are you clear on your calling? I hope you’ll be inspired, as I was, by the example of Kent Brantley. As he said: “It’s by recounting the past, retelling and reliving your own story that we remember where we’re going and how our story fits into God’s story.”
God wastes nothing. Even ebola. Thank you, Dr. Brantley, for sharing your story with us, and for the inspiration that your journey of faith, sacrifice and courage provides. We are praying that you and Nancy Writebol get well very soon.
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