“Three, two, one …” For so many of life’s great events, this countdown of anticipation stirs imagination!
For me, it also represented the ultimate achievement after years of education, preparation, and envisioning my future. Hearing this countdown from the flight deck of a spacecraft was my career goal, and by 2001 I was well on my way.
I became a follower of Christ at a young age, and people would often tell me things like, “God is going to use you in ministry someday!” I was not resistant to that idea, but I never sensed a call to pursue vocational ministry. My eyes were looking up—at the sky, at the space beyond it—the ultimate “final frontier” for humanity.
God seemed to be blessing my steps toward becoming an astronaut. Not long after high school graduation, I earned my private pilot’s license. I then graduated from Missouri S&T and was given a Graduate Research Assistantship, an honor normally the outcome of stiff competition, but uniquely offered to me.
During that time, an opportunity came along to serve part time in a local church, teaching youth and leading music while I finished up my education. I thought it would be a fun and fulfilling short-term job (although my wife had an immediate sense that we would be headed into full-time vocational ministry).
Little did I know, it would serve as the first step into a career path about as far from rocket science as I could imagine … and we caught our first glimpse into the bigger future God had in mind for us.
During the spring of 2001, it was down to the wire. I had one semester remaining, and I was in the home stretch. Dreams of visiting the International Space Station, or even landing on Mars, filled my heart.
But there was a another dream forming as well—a calling, more precisely—to lay aside all my own plans for the future and to genuinely trust God for daily bread, direction, and vision.
One evening, while attempting to complete an advanced acoustics homework assignment, I was suddenly unable to write even the most basic formula to begin the solution. I initially shrugged it off as extreme tiredness (we had two children under the age of two, a full course schedule, and a growing ministry at the church).
As I prayed for strength to continue into the night, I received a challenge instead: “Are you ready to start living what you’ve been teaching?”
What was I not living? From my perspective we already had a faith walk.
The question in my soul became stronger and more specific, akin to what Jesus said to Levi at his tax collector booth: “Will you trust Me enough with your family and future to cease your coursework and career path for the sake of following Me completely?”
I knew what I had to do: drop my remaining classes and start earnestly seeking God. I finished the semester in the laboratory in order to allow my advisor to select a replacement for me, but the countdown for me as an astronaut had stopped just short of “LIFTOFF.”
On to Eternal Frontiers
What followed was nineteen years of church ministry, during which time I had many, many people ask the obvious question: “So, how do your education and your vocation align?” At the risk of over-spiritualizing lofty goals, I often responded, “My sights have just shifted even farther out, from extra-terrestrial to heavenly.”
There have been moments along the way when my thoughts have wandered to the “what ifs,” but those have increasingly become fewer and farther between. God’s faithfulness has constantly overtaken the inevitable doubt, frustration, disappointment, and uncertainty we have experienced on this journey.
Were we living by faith during that time? Yes. But God had even more in store, which has only become clear more recently. As on any frontier, unexplored territory always lies ahead.
For our family, the call came to join Life Action Ministries … and that has resulted in everything from our family living in a travel trailer moving from church to church on the speaking team, to assisting at Life Action Camp in Michigan, to taking on various leadership roles within the ministry, to writing for Revive.
My whole family counts it an amazing privilege to encourage people all across the world to say yes to God’s unique call on their lives—to fix their eyes on things much further above. Being a part of the Life Action family is a calling higher than any booster rocket could have taken me, and I look forward with great anticipation to what lies beyond.
What’s out there, just past the horizon? What is the next “yes” God has for me, and for you, that could change the trajectory of our lives and lead us to exciting new places?
Maybe it’s time to find out.
Rich Lee now serves as the Executive Administrator at Life Action’s National Ministry Center in Buchanan, Michigan.