Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

So…What’s It Like Pretending You Are Not Dying?

Written by: on September 6, 2019

Life is a journey ~ and we’re all along for the ride. Someone once asked one of my Hospice patients, “What’s it like to know you are dying?” His question back was, “What’s it like pretending you are not?” Touché! We are all dying on this earth from the moment we are born, but it’s what we do in-between that is important.

Finding one’s purpose in life is a driving force within all of us. Dobrow & Tosti-Kharas (2011) described a calling as “a consuming, meaningful, passionate people experience toward a domain.”[1] Yet, to me, a calling has spiritual connotations, as I believe that God has a purpose for each of our lives ~ and our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to find that purpose and to fulfill it!

I found it interesting that there is a renewed interest in “callings” in leadership, due to the idea that a calling is believed to be central to one’s identity, which enhances motivation and job satisfaction for those who are within their purpose. As a business leader over the years, I have seen the great difference in employees who have been within their calling and those who have not. There is a focus and dedication beyond a 9-5 clock that is ingrained in those who are doing a job that is within their life’s purpose at that point in time.

Yet, I also believe that our calling may change over time. I think we need to fulfill different puzzle pieces at different times in God’s great puzzle that we call LIFE. I found that when I was younger, my calling was to make this great difference in the world in a large way. I couldn’t settle for making small changes…the world was my challenge and I felt the need to do it all! I became president of nearly every local non-profit organization in all of Kalamazoo; I traveled throughout the nation, doing public speaking and trainings; and I served as a Senator’s wife and community leader throughout Michigan. In addition, the shallow part of me owned lake homes and drove fancy cars, believing those things were important for some reason. But God had other plans! And it was through a volunteer project that I uncovered a new calling for my life.

I remember the first time I volunteered at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. I drove there, not sure where to park because I was driving my new Jaguar and didn’t want one of the homeless people scratching it and breaking off my precious “Jag” hood ornament. But, after the very first introduction to the Mission, I felt a powerful calling and I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I soon became the Director and ran the Mission for five years, loving on the people who I crossed paths with on my journey. When one of my homeless friends became ill with cancer, I realized that Hospice wasn’t an option for homeless people because they have no real address. So, I became very involved in helping to design a Hospice program for this individual and others like him who were homeless – and soon felt God calling me into Hospice Chaplaincy. The rest in history!

I don’t know if we really make mistakes throughout our lives in our callings – or maybe we just have different pieces of God’s puzzle to fulfill at different times in our lives. But I think all of us have a purpose that God has planned for us long before we came into existence. And I think that it is through our calling that we become complete – in whatever role that may be. In Leadership Without Easy Answers, the author quotes a famous philanthropist who once said, “Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.”[2] We cannot know the needs of others without hearing their voices and listening to their hearts. And it is through that understanding that we become effective, caring leaders to those who are seeking positive leadership from a compassionate guiding light.

[1] Stephen Woodworth, “Prophets, Priests and Kings: The Use of Metaphors in Training Global Leaders Towards Pastoral Identity,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 52.

[2] Ronald Heifetz, Leadership Without Easy Answers (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 143.

About the Author

Nancy VanderRoest

Nancy is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and fulfills God's calling on her life by serving as a Chaplain & Counselor with Hospice. In her spare time, Nancy works with the anti-human trafficking coalition in her local community.

15 responses to “So…What’s It Like Pretending You Are Not Dying?”

  1. Jenn Burnett says:

    Nancy this was just beautiful! This week in my quiet times I’ve been wrestling with the difference between career and calling and how I might both reclaim permission to live out of my calling (rather than having a career) and how I articulate my calling in a more secular context. I also appreciate your existential introduction. It begs more questions like what makes a good life? How do we live life well? How do we live the tension between living well just in today while still planning for the future…ours or the world’s? Thank you for your beautiful ministry Nancy!

    • Nancy VanderRoest says:

      Jenn, thanks so much for your response, my friend. I’ve missed you! Your questions are powerful ~ wish I had the answers. But I truly believe they are personal for each one of us anyway, as we all have a different pathway to follow. You are on the right track, Jenn. Your gifts are many and your heart is truly a heart of a compassionate guiding light!

  2. Mary Mims says:

    Nancy, that realization that life is short no matter how you look at it, should help fuel our purpose and call. I think too many people wait too long to try to figure out what they should do with their lives. Nancy, thank God you listened to the call and know your purpose.

    • Nancy VanderRoest says:

      Thanks, Mary, and so have you! I love your inner spirit, my friend, as it shines a bright light for others to follow. You are spreading your gifts and leading the way for others in so many special ways. Thanks for your response, Mary.

  3. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Nancy it is so good to have you back! Thank you for this post . . . such a joy to read 🙂

    • Nancy VanderRoest says:

      It’s great to be back, Jacob! Thanks for your response to my post and for your thoughtful words. Looking forward to seeing you and the rest of the cohort in London. Blessings to you, my friend.

  4. Sean Dean says:

    Nancy, this is a wonderful reflection. I also believe that calling changes over time. I really enjoyed how you illustrated that. Thanks.

    • Nancy VanderRoest says:

      Hi Sean. Yes, I think circumstances, experiences, and age all make a difference in our calling in life. I’ve seen people move from top executive corporate positions to working within a non-profit due to the loss of a child. I’ve also seen people grow from maintenance to top leadership in non-profit sectors. God holds the key. Our role is to do the best we can – and let Him lead the way.

  5. Rhonda Davis says:

    Nancy, you are such a gift to everyone who has the privilege to know you. I echo Jacob…it’s good to have you back!

    I have been in multiple conversations recently with people who are sensing God’s invitation into something much more present. It’s not that they don’t desire to “dream big.” In fact, they’ve each expressed a fear of the perception of laziness or settling for less. It seems to me that their persepctives are simply pivoting from how big their impact could be to how deep and lasting their impact could be. I have loved every single one of these conversations. Your story seems to add another line to a beautiful narrative that expresses the way God sees all. Thanks again, Nancy. I am grateful for your courage.

    • Nancy VanderRoest says:

      I have truly missed our cohort, Rhonda. It’s so nice to be back! And I’ve missed you too, special lady. Your responses are always so heartwarming – thank you for your gift of compassion. Making a move from the Corporate world to a more personal level in Hospice was such a gift for me. I can focus my whole attention on one person at a time – letting them know they are all that matters at that moment. I don’t feel torn to take on the world – just to help bring peace to one individual at any given moment in time. It’s truly precious!

  6. Karen says:

    Nancy – this was such a great post! I always love hearing from your perspective.

    I am interested to hear more about your thoughts on how calling changes over time. I wonder how you see that play out for others. In my experience, I have found that people have one overarching calling, but the expression of it is what changes, not the calling. For instance, it seems like your calling has always been to people and more often to a helping profession, but the EXPRESSION of that calling has changed for you. In this post, you went from being a speaker to many to speaking on behalf one individual experiencing homelessness. I’m seeing that that calling on your life is one in the same!

    Sean – feel free to chime in here too!

  7. Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Hi Karen. Your reply was truly thought-provoking. I think I kind of answered my view of your question in my response to Sean. To reiterate ~ I think circumstances, experiences, and age all make a difference in our calling in life. I’ve seen changes comes about due to experiences in one’s life that have created a reversal in the direction of their lives. I believe that God always has a plan in mind and He guides us in different directions at times. (Please see my response to Sean). It’s not that our calling was necessarily wrong to begin with. But I think circumstances and age can create this change in direction. What’s your opinion about this, Karen?

  8. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Yes, how we have dearly missed you, Friend! Nancy, your thoughts and your reflections convey a deeply honest understanding of yourself and your God. Your Heifetz citation, “Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.” stimulated my thoughts. Your life reflects how you stepped into and changed paths as the Lord presented you with often unplanned opportunities. Your willingness and powerful obedience have blessed many throughout the diverse expressions of your calling. We all so appreciate you, your thoughts, and your experiences. See you soon in the UK!

  9. Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful response, Harry. I’ve missed all of you ~ and am soooo looking forward to London! Thanks also for your kind words. God has plans for all of us. Mine aren’t quite as encompassing as a minister of a church, but I love my little piece of the world that the Lord opened up for me. Hospice work fulfills me and I pray that I am touching lives thru Christ – one at a time!

  10. John Muhanji says:

    Wow!! this is a great post, Nancy, and am challenged especially by your opening statement that all are destined for death from the time we are born. It is a fact that we live in denial but is a reality. I connect very well with the subject of calling. I was in a similar situation after graduation from a business school and getting a very good banking and prestigious job. But after working there for several years and seeing how poverty controlled our people who were not reached. I was called to leave the banking and join the ministry of serving the less fortunate in the community through the church. A calling is one that cannot be resisted by anybody when it strikes at your doorsteps. Being called to serve the homeless and later the hospice is more challenging than anything else. Sometimes we end up asking God several questions like “why are some people suffering and others living a healthy and glowing life in the same community?” These are some of the questions that God will never answer but will call you to reach and serve such. Thank you for sharing and reigniting my spirit in ministry.

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