I love it when the Lord uses a book to speak straight to my heart the exact words I need to hear at a particular time. Some time back I was in a used bookstore here in Birmingham when a book caught my eye. The title was Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis’ House and Back Again by Ryan J. Pemberton. I was intrigued! As I thumbed through, I realized that the book was a spiritual memoir about the author’s call to ministry, which involved him studying theology at Oxford in England. I knew that I had to buy it because I myself have been struggling with my own calling and what that means in my life. I am glad I did!
Using the medium of story, Pemberton shares his experience with following the call of God on his life. For him, the call meant leaving his comfortable job and studying theology halfway around the world in an effort to become a writer who relays spiritual truth in a way that the average person can apply to their lives. The journey took him from mountain tops, living in C.S. Lewis’ home; to lows, living away from his wife during their first pregnancy. However, through it all, Pemberton reminds us that “being called by God…does not mean being called to a particular job, school, or even vacation, so much as it means being called to surrender” (pg.237). The calling of God is about dropping our nets and following Jesus wherever he leads. Following Jesus is not easy and will cost us something, but in the end, it is worth it because Jesus is always worth it!
Although the specifics of his story are different, the journey is the same. When the journey brought him to places he never imagined he would be, like waiting in line at the social services office. He asked himself the same questions that everyone asks when life does not turn out the way we’d hoped. Lord, did I hear you wrong? Am I not called? Did I misunderstand? Is this worth it?
In the end, Pemberton discovers that the Christian life is not about pursuing a calling, but pursuing the Caller. His story harkens to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “seek first the kingdom of God ships righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV). When we pursue the calling above all else, it becomes an idol. Yet, when we pursue God above all else, we discover our true purpose, namely to enjoy God in a personal relationship.
I loved this book because I read my story in Pemberton’s story. I have found myself in many of the same positions, spiritually speaking. His story speaks right to my heart because I fully understand the difficulty of leaving all to follow Christ. I have been where he was, ready to throw in the towel. Yet, hearing a story similar to mine, from someone who is walking the same journey reminds me that I’m not alone. It beckons me to stop and be reminded that God did not call me to serve Him, He called me to trust Him. For the first time, while reading this book, that truth made the journey from my head to my heart. My life may not end up how I envisioned, but all that matters is that my name is written in heaven and in that I rejoice.
I am thankful for Ryan Pemberton’s obedience to the call of God on his life. He truly is a wonderful storyteller! His writing is a gift from the Lord. He draws the reader into the story by making the reader feel what he felt and experience what he experienced. This book is a great reminder that the call to follow the Lord is one of adventure and is never dull! I highly recommend this charming memoir to anyone who has said yes to following God. It will remind you that you are not alone!
Zach is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He blogs at zachkendrick.wordpress.com, and is a contributor for Servants of Grace. He has written book reviews for Cross-Focused Reviews, Crossway, New Growth Press, Tyndale House Publishers and Fortress Press. He resides in Birmingham with his wife, Courtney.