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Uncovering Your Past to Discover Your Calling

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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The Rev. Roger Williams was my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather. That would be 11 greats. Growing up, all I knew was that he founded Rhode Island. A number of years after my parents’ deaths, I felt a strange pull towards the past and began to explore my family tree.

As I detangled these familial roots, I realized that Roger and I were kindred spirits. Simply put, neither one of us were what I’d term soft-spoken (mild understatement). In addition to being very staunch advocates for the separation of church and state, we’re both pretty upfront, in-your-face people. We’re liable to blurt out our opinions even if it means we’re in the definite minority.

When I looked back over Grandpa Roger’s life, I gained a newfound respect for the difficulties he must have faced in following his call. He preached for religious tolerance and was banished to the state of Rogues Island, a desolate spot of land that now goes by the more civilized name Rhode Island.

Here he created a haven for other misfits, welcoming those of any religious persuasion, including those who professed not to have any faith. His humane treatment of the Native Americans caused quite a stir among the more civilized Englishmen who viewed those unlike them as subhuman savages.

Grandpa Roger was persona non grata not only in the colonies but also in his native England. His quest to obtain statehood for Rhode Island became mired in some rather vicious battles with Parliament, who banned and burned his books. When I skimmed a few of his remaining works, his writings bore such an eerie resemblance to mine that I felt chills going up and down my spine.

Unfortunately, Roger died a loser, shunned by those in proper society, as well as his family and friends. Even though he remains a relatively unknown figure in history, his legacy was partially redeemed in 1787 when rebel Rhode Island refused to sign the Constitution until the framers of the Constitution added in that now famous First Amendment establishment clause guaranteeing religious liberty to all.

Now that I can see myself through my grandfather’s eyes, I’m learning to see my calling in a new light. No wonder I became a religious satirist. Speaking my mind and going against the grain has always been in my genes.

Conversely, I also consider myself a child of God. To be more specific, I’m a practicing Christian who tries to follow the way of Jesus Christ. Despite my brokenness and imperfection, there are moments when I can see the light Christ is trying to shine through (Matt. 5:16). In those brief fleeting moments, I know I am following not just my ancestor Roger but also my heavenly father as well.

Here’s where I part company slightly from my ancestor. Grandpa Roger was a lone ranger, a trait that all too often seemed to find him isolated from everyone, including God. Like most writers, I spend a good chunk of my time alone. Over the years, I’ve become very aware of the dangers that can happen when I don’t connect with others. So, I rely on some trusted buddies that I can sit down with for a coffee conversation, engage in an email exchange, or talk on the telephone. Such accountability partners help keep me honest to ensure that despite my human flaws, I keep focused on following Christ and not my own personal whims.

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