I don’t know if it’s the impending New Year or my current life circumstances or just my general penchant for new projects and plans, but I’ve been thinking a lot about “calling” again—mulling over the concept, talking with students and friends who are straining to hear theirs, as well as reevaluating my own.
So, because I have “calling” on the brain these days, I read with great interest Dee Ann Turner’s November 4 Relevant magazine article “4 Keys to Discovering Your Calling.”
The four keys she gives us are this:
- Your calling is the thing that gets you up in the morning.
- It’s what others tell you that you do best.
- It’s the way you use your energy to make an impact.
- It’s the moment and the activity in which you feel God’s pleasure.
And I do agree—to a certain extent. Certainly it is wonderful when God calls us to something that lights a fire in our soul. Certainly people occasionally acknowledge our strengths, and I enjoy pointing out the abilities I see in other people. God gave us those skills, no doubt, and He doesn’t intend for them to go to waste. Certainly, too, God sometimes allows us the satisfaction of seeing a project succeed or a problem solved, and it is certainly rewarding when this is the case. And certainly there are seasons when we sense His great pleasure in the process.
Certainly these things are true.
I’m concerned that—more and more—we are searching for something that is self-satisfying, and we are encouraging the next generation to do the same. I’m concerned that—less and less—are we willing to make the necessary sacrifice to follow God’s call to the hard places. Less and less are we willing to stay in that space for as long as it takes.
Sometimes our calling won’t work out like Turner says. Sometimes it’s more about a fight, than fulfillment. And sometimes the following things are also true.
- Sometimes our calling causes us cower under the covers. Sometimes we respond with uncertainty and fear when we hear Him speak our name. Sometimes, we respond with dread. Because sometimes God calls us to do crazy things. Sometimes He calls us to build a great big boat when there is no sign of rain. Sometimes He wants us to go to Nineveh and risk our very lives to share His good news. Sometimes He calls us to care for people who seem downright impossible to love. Sometimes those unlovables live in a distant land across the sea. Sometimes they reside right under our own roof. So we love, not because we feel compelled. Not because the prospect propels us out of bed at the first light of day. We love simply because He loved us first.
- Sometimes our calling doesn’t make sense. Sometimes when He blinds us with His brilliance and we fall to our knees—ready to obey, others will dismiss us and doubt our place. Sometimes our calling seems far beyond our reach. Sometimes we feel shockingly ill-suited to the task. Sometimes when the burning bush beckons, we think of innumerable excuses to explain why we are not the best person for the job. But we get up and go. We march into Pharaoh’s court with our knocking knees and our stuttering speech because He who calls will also equip. He promises His presence and His power. And these things are more than enough. After all, it is His project, not ours.
- Sometimes we won’t get to see the results of our work. Sometimes we may not see any measurable effect. Sometimes we will labor for years and see not one soul saved. Sometimes we won’t get to build the temple or enter the Promised Land. Sometimes our prophetic cries in the wilderness seem to fall on deaf ears. Sometimes our witness will land us behind bars. Yet we keep our eyes on the eternal prize and strain our ears only to hear the ultimate “well done.” And we trust that the harvest is in His capable hands.
- And sometimes we don’t feel His pleasure. Sometimes we sense only silence. Sometimes we sit in the slimy belly of the fish. Sometimes we may beg for the cup to be taken away. “My God, My God!” Sometimes we feel forsaken. But we take up our cross and we follow Him.
So, yes, sometimes God’s calling looks like the miraculous parting of the sea. And sometimes it looks more like a wander in the wilderness. Sometimes it looks like a nail scarred hand. And sometimes—blessed Sunday—it looks like an empty tomb.
As we head into another new year, may we have courage to face the furnace when necessary. May we have the tenacity to circle the city for the seventh time. And may we have keen ears and willing hearts to hear and to heed God’s call—regardless.