So there I was; somewhere between excitement and sadness, hope and confusion. I was a 19 year old college freshman, home for Spring Break. I was in the middle of a soul storm where I was trying to figure out whether or not I should give up my dream to coach college basketball in order to pursue what I felt like was a calling into vocational ministry. I was excited because of a new sense of calling from on high and hopeful regarding what that new calling might hold. I was sad because I did not want to give up my dream to coach basketball and I was confused because my passion for basketball had not waned. With my soul torn, I decided to go see the person who, I believed if she had been alive during Jesus’ time, could have been Jesus’ sister because she oozed with so much compassion and wisdom, Toby Poore. I was hoping that Toby could provide the healing balm needed to calm my soul.
(Important note: If you are a Jesus-follower, everything you do has a chance to be ministry. You do not need the title “pastor” or “bishop” or “elder” to do ministry. I still believe one of my greatest ministries was working third shift at Wal-Mart.)
I walked into Toby’s immaculate house and took a seat on the couch. The peace and beauty of her house, no doubt, matched the peace and beauty of her soul. Toby offered me some tea and then proceeded to sit down on a couch across from where I was sitting. She looked at me with her piercing, peaceful eyes and asked, “What brings you here today, Paul Bryant?” What followed was a ten minute frantic description of my dilemma. I poured out my excitement, my hope, my confusion, and my sadness. I told Toby that I had a church interested in me for their youth ministry position, but that it was a small church and that I really did not feel qualified. I expressed to Toby that I was not ready to leave the life I had always known, the basketball life, in order to pursue vocational ministry. Yet, I also expressed to Toby that this new calling felt refreshing and right. (Even as I type now, my soul is stirred. I had a lot going on in my heart that day).
I finished and looked down at my hands, waiting on some words, any words, to calm my troubled soul. I looked up at Toby and, once again, saw her piercing eyes and graceful smile. My heart rate slowed down and I felt my body relax. Toby had not even spoken yet, but there was something about her demeanor that calmed my heart. She then spoke the following words that changed my life…
“Paul Bryant, stop worrying. God will show you what he wants you to do. If the God who hung the moon and the stars is calling you, he is able to show you his will. Stop worrying.”
All of a sudden, the waters of my restless soul that had been stirring in my life for the last few weeks were calm. Somehow, someway, God used Toby to tell me that everything would be okay. He would show me, in a clear way, what he wanted me to do. Through Toby’s simple wisdom I learned that God is bigger than any calling, any soul storm, and any confusion that might cloud our way. God is not the author of chaos, but instead, he is the author of order and peace.
Who is your Toby Poore? It just so happened that I had my own Jesus-in-the-flesh type mentor who lived the Matthew 11.28-30 life. And, on the day I went to visit her, she showed me the way to rest in the midst of a soul storm. Who is the person you can turn to for wisdom, for peace, for a reminder that God is in control? I pray you have one. Or, better yet, are you someone’s Toby Poore? Are you taking the time to invest in the life of someone who is younger, who has yet to live a large portion of their life? I needed a Toby Poore. There are many who need a Toby Poore. I will always be grateful for Toby Poore.
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.