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Like Jonah, I almost missed it.

I believe we all face situations where it seems God calls us to unfavorable places or into uncomfortable situations. Yet, just as in the Jonah narrative, God is as much at work in the servant as He is in those being served.

Recently, I was asked to visit the brother of a congregant. He was losing a battle with cancer and of questionable faith. Honestly, I didn’t want to go. I felt overwhelmed by an expectation to pray for healing and salvation, and somehow contrive words that would bring comfort to the struggle and make sense of the suffering. But I went anyway, and happened upon one of the most memorable moments I have experienced.

The man was not looking for healing. He did not expect me to make sense of things. He simply wanted someone to join him in the finality of it all, and help reacquaint him with the God of his youth. After some time of talking and reflection, I invited the man and his wife to express their hearts to God in prayer. What followed was a beautiful, honest, tender expression of worship and trust. They were reunited with grace, and he was ushered into God’s presence a week later.

And I almost missed it. I was caught up in what I was supposed to do, rather than being confident in who I am called to be. The way I see it, my identity is an expression of my connectivity to people, but destiny is different. Destiny is an expression of my connectivity to God. As this experience allowed me to see, I can easily get distracted by my earthly identity and be disconnected from my kingdom destiny.

This is not a new struggle. Do our ever-changing identities, roles or titles artificially define or limit our kingdom contribution? For me, identities such as pastor, father, husband, friend or boss can sometimes hinder God’s unique destiny from full manifestation in my life. Whether these limitations are self-imposed or placed on me by others, I can become distracted by the role, and disconnect from my greater kingdom calling.

When I look at Jonah, I see his flight to Tarshish as flat-out disregard for God’s destiny and calling on his life. God invited Jonah to participate in a significant kingdom moment. Jonah almost missed it because of a defined identity, limited to only the Hebrew nation.

As with Jonah, the panic of God calling us to do something outside the confines of our perceived roles can cause us to bolt. It can keep us from being available to hear and obey a timely word of direction whispered by the Holy Spirit. As in the case with the dying man, I was struggling with my perceived role as “God’s answer-man,” needing to do something, and all the while forgetting my destiny to be a Spirit-filled witness and presence. As I released my “pastor” identity and instead responded as a Christ-follower, available to love and serve, I was pleasantly surprised and energized by God’s work through me.

As you continue your lifelong service to God, I invite you to look beyond your roles and reconnect with destiny. May you not miss the creative and dynamic ways God will bring His kingdom through you in greater measure on the earth, just as it is in heaven.

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is the senior pastor of CitySalt (Eugene South Foursquare Church) in Eugene, Ore.