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?
- Coming Alive to Your Calling - February 3, 2016
19 thoughts on “Coming Alive to Your Calling”
Thank you for sharing this, Aaron. My son has had a similar experience, and I have seen many of us questioning what “calling” really means. Clearly, we’re called to share Christ. Whether you do that as a pastor or as a writer, both involve a gift of teaching as well as that passion that “makes your heart race.” This morning I read this from Oswald Chambers: “The call of God is an expression of His nature; the service which results in my life is suited to me and is an expression of my nature…Service to God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God.”
How people are wired/created/gifted can be expressed in so many different God honoring ways. It’s a real adventure to find out what makes us come alive.
YES! You say you don’t have the answers you struggled with for years. I think you do! It took me years as well to discover this. I set out young with a traditional path to a specific ministry calling. It has now shifted several times and it took me years to grieve the path I thought I was supposed to be on. Looking back I can see how the steps I took each time were bringing me to the right place at that time, not some final result I thought would be this one over-arching calling for my whole life. I try to hold loosely to the “big” plans now and just take one step at a time, knowing callings shift and move in seasons of our lives. I wish someone had told me this when I was young, wish I had read these words of yours when I cried for the lost plan I had worked years for. I have been talking a lot lately about what it is that gives life to us and pressing into that. Love these words of yours, Aaron!
Thanks for reading. We do find ourselves in different places at the right time for each phase of our life. That’s what I love about being called to life: it gets to morph and shift with the different twists and turns our lives take.
I come back all the time to the truth that calling is about who I am as well as what I do. If I am on this earth to communicate a message or to accomplish a mission, the outworking of that may take on a different look at different times in my life. The trick for me is — being ok with that.
Being ok with that is hard, especially when things disrupt our “normal”. Change always feels like a death, but it doesn’t mean our calling is over.
I too was called. A strange phrase, isn’t it? What I’ve determined is that we can’t possibly know what God will do within that calling. Believe me, you’re still “teaching” others about their Christian faith when you write. The Internet community is most certainly a part of the holy catholic church. I appreciated the journey you took us on here as you walked through what “calling” meant in your life. I hope you come to peace with where He has you.
Thanks. I am at peace. I love adventuring as a writer, trying to make a life out of words. I still feel called by God, but it’s a calling to live wholeheartedly, not a call to some position.
Love this — a call to live wholeheartedly, not to some position. I feel like moving from a “career” to a stay-at-home-mom/ministry spouse/writer has been such a battle. I like how you put it here.
I think people tie calling to dreams too much. Lots of time our dreams change, die, and become something else. Tieing calling to dreams leaves us in a state of constant flux. But if we are called to come alive, then no matter what changes our calling remains.
I’ve wondered how many have been felt left out by not being “called”? Good words Aaron as I feel exactly as you said, we are called to come alive.
Ya. I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea that we only have one thing we are called to. We are multifaceted beings, capable of choice and accomplishing multiple things. I think God honors that. Thanks for reading.
Loved this post today! We’ve been called “alive” in any and all circumstances whether we are in the right “fit” or not. I know I will always wrestle with this issue of calling but you’ve shed a light on this for me today. No matter what God has called us to be fully alive, even in the wrestling and uncertainty, to thrive with our gifts, passions and talents anyway. Thank you.
Even in the uncertainty, we have a compass. Go towards that which makes your heart race, your mind quicked, and your passion roar. We move towards life with stuttering steps, but we are still moving towards that which makes us feel quickened and alive.
Such good thoughts here, Aaron. Also, welcome 🙂 I think I thought of “calling” as straightforward, easily quantifiable, acceptable to other people, easily assigned a title, paid. I think it can be those things, but not necessarily. The wilier I’ve gotten, the more willing I am to offend people, the more I squint at my own ambition, the closer I feel like I’ve come to calling. But it’s not easy–it feels unsafe and exposed sometimes.
Our lives are too messy, too complex to wrap calling up in a neat little package. All the good stuff is unsafe anyways.
Aaron, I don’t think a call is a straight highway, like I80, but perhaps a series of long, winding roads. No matter where we are going we need to remember to take care – of our self, our health – so that we can help others. For many the journey is the call. Peace!
I think a misunderstanding occurs when we are told in our youth that God has a particular calling for us and we need to figure out what that is. We try to find that calling and when things don’t work out we think we missed God’s best for us. But I think you are on to something here. “Maybe there isn’t one great calling on our human hearts…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.” No matter what our vocation or wherever we find ourselves we can “learn to become fully alive, fully human, and shine where I am with what I have.” Amen!