A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting around a table with a group of women at a church event, and the subject of homeschooling came up.
One woman explained that she had homeschooled all five of her children from kindergarten through high school…to which another woman exclaimed, “I’m so glad that is NOT my calling!”
Several of us responded with a nod and an empathetic chuckle, and a couple of others even exclaimed, “Me too!”
Certainly, it can be a funny joke. The irony is obvious.
“That’s not my calling” has become our comical Christian way of saying, “That sounds SO hard…not fun…too time-consuming….beyond my ability…outside of my comfort zone…or not aligned with my gifting. I could (or would) NEVER do that! And I’m super-duper glad that God hasn’t told me to.”
Joking aside, though, this kind of conversation could also be one more indication of our confusion about the role of “calling” in our lives, a confusion that is probably most pronounced when we have a difficult decision to make.
Should I go to this college or that one? Should I marry this person or not? Should I take this job or wait for a better one? Should I pursue foreign missions or stay in the States? Should we educate our kids at home—or send them to a private or a public school?
We pray and deliberate. We want to obey. We wonder and we worry and we wait for the writing on the wall or the burning bush to appear—a “call” that doesn’t seem to come. And when the piercing light doesn’t blind us from the heavens, we might conclude: “God seems to be silent on this one. He is not giving me clarity. I guess I’m not called.”
But one key to cracking this code might be in understanding the two different kinds of call.
General vs. Specific Call
As we established in a previous post, ALL of us who claim Jesus Christ as Lord have been given a general calling from God—to “follow Him.” To know Him more and more. To love Him—heart, soul, mind, and strength. To love our neighbor as ourselves. To obey. To grow in Christlikeness through the study of His Word and prayer. To allow His Spirit to change us and to flourish in His fruit. To use our gifting and our resources for His kingdom sake. And so on. Scripture makes these things very clear.
We are all called. In as much as you are pursuing Him, you are following that primary call. And you walk out that primary calling on your life in a hundred different and daily ways.
But there is a difference between our general, universal, primary calling as Christ followers and the special, particular calling that comes to some.
Author Os Guinness defines the special calling as “those tasks and missions laid on individuals through a direct, specific, supernatural communication from God” (The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life).
In other words, while all of God’s followers receive His general call to discipleship, only some will receive a special call to complete a particular assignment at a certain time.
And it’s of utmost importance that we understand the difference between the two.
Guinness explains: “This distinction has practical consequences. Many Christians make the mistake of elevating a special calling or of talking as if everyone needed a special call for every task. (‘Were you called to this job?’) Some use the word calling piously regarding all their decisions, thinking it is the word to use, when in fact they have not had any special call…Others feel that, without a special call, they have had no call at all. So they wait around for guidance and become passive, excusing themselves by saying they have had ‘no call.’ But all they are doing is confusing the two types of call and burying their real talent in the napkin in the ground.”
I think these are the takeaways…
God calls every one of His followers to pursue Him.
As we draw near, He gives us His Word and His Spirit and wisdom to guide us in every daily decision that we make. We need not wait for the shrubbery to ignite and a heavenly voice to tell us to move.
Every now and then, though, He does break through in supernatural and unmistakable ways to call some of us to a particular job or role at a particular time. He may even call us to a work that is SO hard…and outside of our comfort zone…and beyond our ability. In fact, that’s His specialty…for when we are weak, then He is strong.
This is the fifth post in a series on how to clarify our CALLING. Read the introductory post here. And stay tuned for more posts in the weeks to come.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and stories on the subject!
I invite you to email me, comment here, or find me on Facebook.