I used to feel like I was called.
I was sure that the pulpit was my destination. I was called to the ministry. I had been told that since I was a child. I was to be a pastor, a preacher, a minister. I felt this calling in my bones, in my spirit, deep in my heart. I just knew I was called.
In my early 20’s, I spent a few years in a church internship, working with the youth group and the young adults. During this time, I was certain of my calling. I devoted myself to Bible studies, worship services, and discipleship programs. I was trying to fan into flame the gift given to me, just like Paul urged Timothy to.
I don’t feel that calling any more. I don’t feel the fire in my bones about a pastoral position. Maybe I’ve just been too hurt over the years. Maybe I have simply given up on something that was important to me. Maybe I was never called in the first place. Whatever the reason is, here I am at 35 and I’m not a pastor. I didn’t go to Bible school and I’ve only attended a smattering of seminary classes. Not that schooling makes one a minister, but it is the traditional path. Traditional or not, it looks like I was wrong about being called.
But what about the hours, days, years spent preparing myself? What about the words spoken over me when I was young? What about the certainty I felt to my core? Was it all just misguided and wrong?
I’ve spent years wrestling with these questions. I still have no answers. When you define yourself by what you are called to do and then you end up not doing what you felt called to a certain dissonance occurs. That dissonance creates an unbalancing of the soul.
Without vision people perish.
Isn’t that what calling is at its core: a vision for what a life can accomplish, what it can mean, what legacy can be left? Calling gives us a sense of purpose, a notion of pride, a validation of our self-worth. Someone or something looks upon us, sees our gifts and talents and personality and calls us, imparts to us a meaningful quest, a place in the world.
We all want a meaningful place in this glorious cosmos.
Without that sense of calling, I felt lost for a long time. I felt I would never find a place for myself again, never have a great vision for my life. All I had left was a lifelong love of words. Creating words, forming paragraphs, sharing stories: slowly working the words has become something that I feel deep in my bones, something that makes me feel alive, something I feel called to do.
Could this be a second calling? Maybe it is another chance to find my place in the cosmos. Maybe I haven’t missed out on God’s will for my life. Maybe I’m still being called.
Maybe there isn’t one great calling on our human hearts. I think it’s more complex than that. We aren’t called to a specific task or position or lifestyle. I don’t think that God had designed each of us to accomplish one thing with our multifaceted lives.
In fact, I would say that maybe, just maybe, we are all called to the exact same thing. I think we are called to come alive. To do what makes our pulse quicken and our breath race. Those things that make our hearts glad to beat the blood through our stardust and mud bodies. We are called to be fully engaged with this mess we call life. We are called to shine, to do what we do well, and to give life to others with our deeds.
This is a calling we all share. No matter how life changes, no matter what curves are thrown our way, no matter the hurts and wounds we inflict and endure, our one calling remains: come alive!
So maybe I’m not going to be a pastor. Maybe I’m going to be a writer. Maybe life will shift again and I will become something else. No matter what, I will use what I have been given—gifts, passions, heartbeats, and talents—and I will learn to embrace life more and more. I will learn to become fully alive, fully human, and shine where I am with what I have.
This is good news for us all. Our vision, our calling, our one purpose in life is to live it as robustly as we can, to give ourselves away and to use up the gifts we have been given. This is a beautiful, gentle thing that shakes the cosmos when we really get it. When this calling gets into our bones, we become forces of nature that leave behind the kind of legacy that benefits others.
Where are you talented? What do you care about? What makes your heart race? These things are your mission. Do them well. Give yourself to these things. In them, you will find a sense of purpose and meaning to your life that no circumstance can take away.
Join me, and together we can shine.
After all, aren’t we called?