Higher Calling I’m headed home to Arkansas for a purpose that’s been awaiting me all my life.

by Amanda Jean Elliott

I’m headed home to Arkansas for a purpose that’s been awaiting me all my life.

Walking dogs at Animal Aid while on location for a photo shoot for The Independent in November 2015
Photo by Robin May

The world has changed radically in the last few years. Mine. Yours. And I feel a sense of urgency that I cannot pretend it hasn’t. By the time this is published, I’ll be nearly packed entirely (or if my personality and past are an indicator, I may not have started) and heading to my home state of Arkansas.

I don’t have a big job awaiting me or a clear cut plan. In short, I’ve told people the reason is twofold: God is bossy, and He can be trusted.

Ultimately, I believe it is time to do the things we say we believe. It is time to put feet to faith. It is time to do the very things we are called to do explicitly in God’s word instead of sitting in man-made churches lamenting the demise of the world.

More than two years ago, I answered a call I had sensed for years — and the style editor at The Independent walked a church aisle and said “send me.” What followed after answering a call to ministry hasn’t been some huge walking away from a career and into ministry as I had envisioned. Rather, it’s been a choice to take one more step in faith. Frankly, at times it has been harder than a clean cut from one life to the next. And I know this is as it should be. The willingness to just do the next thing without the full plan is kind of the point.

I feel certain now more than ever that doing the next right thing regardless of consequence matters. I feel certain now more than ever that the approach to life that’s less and less about self and more about others matters. I feel certain now more than ever that the mission to care for those the world despises and God loves is pressing. In fact, for people who profess to be Christians, for people who profess to love and follow Jesus, it’s not optional at all. It’s not something that’s a choice like an a la carte menu where we pick big sins and little ones, where we love on and fight for those like us and loathe those who are different. Where we do the church thing the one time a week and live as though the very thing we claim to believe more than anything isn’t more than a fairy tale. It’s a package deal.

We cannot claim to love God and hate those He cares for deeply. Our purpose on this earth is not to stamp out dissent or different voices via political process or force. Our purpose is to be a voice for the voiceless, to protect the fatherless, to care for widows and to worship the Lord. Our mission is simple: to be more like Jesus. These are things I have long believed and professed. And now it is time to walk them out in a literal fashion.

I moved to Lafayette more than 10 years ago and became the style editor at The IND nearly five years ago. It seemed an unlikely fit to some people. I was aligned easily with a right-of-center political bent and wrote about my spiritual beliefs without reservation when and how I wished. I had a life quite planned out that included journalism forever, and I loved dearly my role at this publication.

I decided certain things I would and would not do over the years — chief among them that I wouldn’t speak in public. Not negotiable.

And then Cherry Fisher May and Leslie Turk look at you and ask if you can emcee a style awards and you find your mouth saying “yes” much to your dismay. It was a breakthrough I know now. Speaking in public for a fashion event opened the door to allow me to do what I never thought possible — stand on a stage and talk about what God has done for me.

Our world has changed. And I know now I was being prepared for this state of affairs. I believe there is something I am supposed to do with the gifts and experiences I’ve been given. I believe, more importantly, that despite my lack of experience (and maybe even because of it), I will do something for which I’m entirely unqualified.

I’ve said again and again I do not know what is next. And I don’t know if that’s entirely accurate. I know God has said to start a church. It’s an endeavor so daunting I haven’t spoken it out loud to very many people.

I don’t know what it looks like. I don’t know how. But I do know why.

This is a time like none other. And we were each born for a time such as this. It is a time for those of us who believe the world can and should be a place of love and grace and mercy to walk these truths out. It is a time to do more than believe and speak. It is a time I believe for us each to walk right out of our comfort zones and into an unknown future we can trust to a known God. A God who is love.

An author I admire recently recalled the words of Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and that is that the greatest stumbling block to progress is not those with whom we most ardently disagree, but those moderates who are more devoted to order than to justice. May I never be called a moderate devoted to order over a rebel called to love, truth and justice.