Find Your Own Calcutta
November 18, 2020
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In some ways, Nehemiah seems like an overnight success. He rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem in fifty-two days flat. But the passion was internalized months before it was verbalized. The journey to Jerusalem must have taken several months. And Nehemiah experienced considerable opposition along the way from a couple of ancient thugs named Sanballat and Tobiah.
Sometimes when we read the stories of biblical characters, we underestimate how long it took for them to accomplish what they accomplished. And we underestimate how hard it was. We can read their stories in a matter of minutes, so we tend to overlook the fact that, in most instances, their passions were unpursued or unfulfilled for years on end. In my experience, the Wild Goose doesn’t take shortcuts. He loves leading us down the scenic route because that is where we learn our most valuable lessons.
I’m not sure where you are in your Wild Goose chase. Maybe you feel like you’re trapped in a dead-end job. Maybe your passions are buried beneath your responsibilities. Or maybe you feel like you’ll waste too many credits if you change majors now. I don’t know what is keeping you from pursuing your God-ordained passions, but I do know that if you have the courage to come out of the cage, it will change your life.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu felt called to ministry when she was a teenager. She did her ministerial training in Ireland and India. And one day she approached her superiors with a God-ordained passion. She said, “I have three pennies and a dream from God to build an orphanage.”
Her superiors said, “You can’t build an orphanage with three pennies. With three pennies you can’t do anything.”
Agnes smiled and said, “I know. But with God and three pennies I can do anything.”
For fifty years Agnes worked among the poor in the slums of Calcutta, India. In 1979 the woman we know as Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize. Listen, it is a long way from three pennies to a Nobel Peace Prize. And my question is, how did a woman with so little do so much? The answer is simple. Never underestimate someone who has the courage to come out of the cage and pursue a Godordained passion.
Toward the end of her ministry, Mother Teresa was often asked by her admirers how they could make a difference with their lives the way she had with hers. Mother Teresa’s oft-repeated response was four words long: “Find your own Calcutta.”
Now let me bring it a little closer to home, because Calcutta seems like half a world away.
A few years ago I performed a funeral for a Senate staffer who attended National Community Church. Jayona never held a position of power. She was an administrative assistant in charge of constituent correspondence—an entry-level position on Capitol Hill. Jayona opened mail for fourteen years. But she was the best constituent correspondent she could be. She also sewed buttons for colleagues, showed interns the ropes, and baked a mean batch of chocolate-chip cookies.
I’ll never forget her memorial service. It was held in the Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building. Some of the most important people have attended some of the most important hearings in our nation’s history in that room. The service was packed with people coming to pay their respects, and I had the opportunity to tell them that Jayona would want them to have what she had—a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m guessing lots of colleagues and a few members of Congress heard a clear presentation of the gospel for the first time in their lives that day. And it was all set up by a woman who found her Calcutta on Capitol Hill.
You don’t need wealth or position or power to make a difference. You just need to do the best you can with what you have where you are. And if you are faithful in Babylon, God will bless you in Jerusalem.
Be the best cupbearer you can be!
That’s responsible irresponsibility. That’s pursuing passion.
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.