Guest Post by Dr. Mollie Bond
A college buddy and I were on her couch, talking about the plateau that a mid-career woman can feel. With our feet tucked underneath us like we were those college kids from decades ago, we discussed the next steps in our dreams as if we had just graduated. What struck me is that neither one of us was talking about the same dreams that we had right after graduation. At one point, I asked, “If my dreams aren’t the same, did I lose my way? Did I miss my calling?”
Good friends point you back to Christ, which is exactly what she did. “Perhaps a calling isn’t a straight line, but instead a target. I think your dream isn’t the calling, but instead, the call is to be more like Christ.”
In other words, dreams and callings are different.
A calling is the same for all of us: To know God and enjoy him forever. To be more like Christ is to step into your calling.
The idea of pursuing a dream, an outcome, or objective is healthy. But it can place a person on the throne rather than God, which can be devastating. If dreaming occurs without asking God first what to do to live out a calling, then my dreaming is about me. To become more important than God is to start down a troublesome path of secularizing a dream in the name of a calling.
My friend’s comment freed me to explore, pray, and even dream bigger than I had before because I no longer had to pursue one big vision for my life. I realized I had equated a calling with a set of actions or a specific dream for my future. I had not missed my calling. Instead, I had misidentified my calling.
Henry and Richard Blackaby with Claude King said something similar in the book, Experiencing God. The authors toss out a question I had been asking myself, but then revise the question. They say, “‘What is God’s will for my life?’ is not the best question to ask. The better inquiry is, ‘What is God’s will?’ Because people are naturally self-centered, we tend to view the whole world—even God’s activity—in terms of our own lives…. My focus needs to be outward on God and his purposes, not inward on my life.” The freedom to let God direct my dreams while I pursue him fully as he calls me to do seems like a much better path.
A calling is God asking you to be more like him in the day-to-day, whether you feel like it is worthy of your time and effort, or not. Cheryl Wunderlich in Sacred Rest notes that “Sometimes we wonder, Is what I’m doing worth it? Am I doing what I’m supposed to do? We can waste a great deal of precious energy questioning whether we’re doing God’s will rather than moving ahead freely with the work He’s given us…Just as he created you with a unique set of gifts and skills, He also will bring you hand-tailored opportunities to work and serve him….But your faithfulness is what matters in the end” (emphasis hers).
Joseph’s story in Genesis 39-41 comes to mind. A man who stays faithful, interprets dreams, and is honorable…spends time in prison. I can’t imagine that was part of his dream for his life. And yet, Joseph’s loyalty to God—his calling—doesn’t waiver. He still exudes godly characteristics and interprets dreams. The Bible says that Joseph gives God glory before interpreting Pharaoh’s dream by saying, “’ I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’” (Genesis 41:16). Joseph doesn’t pretend this is all part of his plan, or dream, for his life. He just follows God. And God provides a much bigger dream for his life because Joseph is true to his calling.
Joseph’s adventures show how a calling is transformational. Our calling comes from a heart that is transformed into his likeness, not spending energy earning the fulfillment of a grand dream. Therefore, if God asks us to do something, and he is fully behind it, the outcome will be far beyond what we could have done on our own. This outcome compels us to acknowledge his good work in our life, through our life, and in the lives of others. And as a result, we end up more like Jesus than before. We have lived out our calling to be like him, rather than chasing our dream to do something amazing.
God wants us to be more like him. Whether as a banker, a lawyer, or a lawn management professional, the call is clear: be like Jesus. And that is enough calling to last a lifetime. Allow God to shape your dreams along the way as you transform more into the likeness of Jesus to fulfill your calling.
For Further Study
Smith, G.T. (1999). Courage and calling: Embracing your God-given potential. IVP Books: Downers Grove, IL.
Blackaby, H., Blackaby, R., & King, C. (date unknown). Experiencing God: Knowing and doing the will of God. B&H: Nashville, TN.
Wunderlich, C. (2017). Sacred rest: Finding the Sabbath in the everyday. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN.
Dr. Mollie Bond is the Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations for Moody Bible Institute. She holds a BA in Radio-Television Production from the University of Montana, an MBA from Kansas Wesleyan University, and a doctoral degree in nonprofit leadership from Governors State University. Outside of her role at Moody, Mollie serves in various volunteer roles, including 4word’s local group leadership and as a 4word mentor. Connect with Mollie on her website.