This story of calling is one of many that can be found in the book Make Your Job a Calling. We’ll post more excerpts here from time to time, but we hope you’ll share your stories of calling with us as well.
Ever since he was a kid, Roger Visker wanted to be a cop. He liked everything about it—the uniform, the car, the lingo, the sense of pride they must get from preserving the peace. He never seriously considered the possibility of doing anything else. In fact, in the program from his eighth-grade graduation ceremony, next to his name, it read, “Career goal: I want to be a Policeman.” With a singular passion, Roger progressed through high school, graduated from college with a law enforcement degree, and landed a job with the Kalamazoo Township Police Department. It was a dream job that fi t like a glove, and Roger thrived in it. He was well-respected and widely regarded as an exceptional cop: sharp, quick-thinking, decisive, cool under pressure, and equal parts firm and fair. He possessed an uncanny ability to de-escalate a tense situation by understanding, and speaking directly to, the anger and pain of desperate people doing desperate things. He quickly moved up the ranks and eventually was promoted to patrol lieutenant, second in command in the department and well on his way to becoming chief. He loved his job and cared rather deeply for his coworkers. He was making a difference. Life was good. Then one day something happened that changed everything forever.
He remembers the date: September 18, 1990. A Tuesday. Fourteen years into his career as a cop. That particular morning, he woke up early to spend time on a Bible study he was working through. Partway into it, he felt a strong urge to pray. “So I started to pray,” Roger recalls. “And at that moment, God spoke to me. I am not sure if it was an audible voice; I looked across the table, and no one was there. I heard it, though, as if it were spoken into my ears. It was just a normal voice, not a booming voice from heaven, not particularly deep; remarkably neutral in a lot of ways. The message was very clear. He said, ‘Roger, I want you to leave police work and go into the ministry. These are people I want you to talk to . . .’—and then he listed the names of seven people—‘and this is the name of the person who will replace you as patrol lieutenant.’ And he gave me the name. I sat there totally shocked, and in awe. I said ‘Okay.’ Then the only thing I could think to do was write down what he said.”
It was time to go to work, so Roger walked outside to his car and started driving. The commute was all of four miles, and at about the two-mile mark, as he replayed the event repeatedly in his mind, tears began to flow. “These were not tears of emotion,” he recalls.
“They were just tears, like my tear ducts were operating. I felt like I was in God’s presence. And I said ‘Okay, I will do this, but you’re going to have to help me.’ God said, ‘Okay,’ and immediately the tears stopped.” Roger spent that morning in a daze, walking around the station, trying to avoid everyone, unable to concentrate or think much about anything other than what had happened earlier that morning. “By the time lunch rolled around, I just needed to talk to my wife. I drove home, and she was still a little upset that I didn’t kiss her good-bye when I left for work that morning. She could tell I wasn’t my usual self, though, and I told her what happened. I was hoping she would tell me I was crazy, or stressed, or that it didn’t really happen.” Roger chuckled. “But to my dismay, she said, ‘If this is what God wants us to do, let’s figure it out.’”
The following weekend, Roger and his wife, Sue, were scheduled to lead a weekend Marriage Encounter retreat in Chicago, something they had done a few times before. It was a great weekend, until Sunday, when Roger started to feel ill. By the time they were ready to leave for home, a two-hour drive, he could barely sit up.
Sue helped Roger as he stumbled to the car, then laid down in the backseat with a vomit bag. Not long after starting the drive, Roger felt another urge to pray. He started praying, and asked Sue to do the same. Soon he noticed an unmistakable physical sensation, a sort of tingling; it started at his fingertips, then enveloped his hands, moved up his arms to his shoulders, then up to his head before heading down the rest of his body until it finally reached his feet. His whole body was shaking. Roger kept praying. “I recognized that this was a kind of spiritual battle. I had to either leave the job I loved for the ministry, or not, and at stake was my spiritual wellbeing. As I prayed, my focus was to release all my stuff to God—our kids, my career, our house, the dog, everything I could think of. I surrendered it over to God and told him all this is yours anyway, take it; more than anything, I need you. And strange though it sounds, I felt a sense of evil, and I rebuked it. I said, ‘I don’t want you around here.’ When I finally had released everything to God, it was over. The tingling left in exactly the reverse order in which it came—it started at my toes, worked its way up to my head, then down my arms, hands and fingers, and then it was gone. Immediately at that moment, I threw up.” At that point, Roger says, he knew that whatever he had been putting off , he had to stop. So he went to the list of seven people with whom he was supposed to talk—one couple he knew through Marriage Encounter, three coworkers, and two friends from church. “I didn’t know what to ask them,” recalls Roger. “I just told them what happened and asked, ‘What do you think?’”
One told Roger to read the classic career self-help book, Richard Bolles’s What Color Is Your Parachute? One recommended a local career counselor, who offered some assessments. One said to talk it through with a pastor. The others offered encouragement, support, and affirmation; they pointed out how they had recognized strengths in Roger that made them think he would be effective in ministry. Strangely, they could also relate to his situation. “The common thread was that all of them had themselves gone through, or were currently going through, a career change,” said Roger. “Over the next several months, I did all the things they suggested. I read the book. I talked with my pastor. I scheduled time with the counselor and took some career assessments. Those were interesting; police officer came up as one of the top fits for me, but so did minister.”
He avoided telling his extended family until December that year. They were naturally surprised, but largely supportive. His mother-in-law asked, “How do you know this is from God and not from the devil?” Recalling this, Roger smiles, and says, “It was a fair question.”
As dramatic as were the events of that week in September, the deliberate steps of exploration that Roger took those intervening months were important. They helped provide the assurance that, indeed, he had the interests, personality, abilities, and values to serve well as a pastor. The assessment results confirmed this, and the words of honest feedback from trusted friends confirmed it, too.
“I had to wrestle with it for a while,” recalls Roger. “It was too difficult not to, what with uprooting our four kids, moving to a new city for seminary, living on almost no income.”
Finally Roger met with the registrar at Calvin Seminary, which was about an hour’s drive away. He told his story and had his transcripts ready. The registrar listened intently, then pointed out that because of the extra psychology and sociology courses he had taken as an undergraduate, along with an independent study in literature he took on a lark because of a good relationship he had with a professor, the only prerequisites he needed were introductory philosophy and Classical Greek. (“It was remarkable,” recalled Roger, “how many of those courses I just happened to have taken when I was in college, never foreseeing this.”) After pausing to let Roger take it all in, the registrar asked, “When do you want to start?”
From there, Roger followed through on his career 180. He finished his master’s of divinity degree after four years and has since pastored three churches in three states, eventually landing in his current post on the staff at New Life Church, a large congregation in New Lenox, Illinois. Doesn’t he grieve no longer being a cop, his lifelong dream job at which he so clearly excelled? “No, I don’t,” he said. “I said to God at that time, ‘If this is what you want me to do, take my love of police work away from me.’ He did. I left in 1992, and I have been back there only once. Those were great years. I loved them. But that was then, and this is now. And I have a deep love of what I’m doing now.”