Last night, I asked for help with some ideas for today’s blog post and got some great responses. A general theme in the questions and thoughts emerged about continuity and change in calling: Can we have several callings at once? Sometimes we get a call for a season. Do our callings end or change over time? How specific is a calling?
These are fabulous questions that all hinge on how we define a calling. When I first started the blog, I gave you some other authors’ ideas on definitions of calling and what it means for our lives. You can read that post here. Today, I’d like to add some more personal thoughts on how I like to think about calling.
THEMES: Your calling will be seen or reflected as an overarching theme in your life
Even though I’ve been studying the topic of calling for almost two years, I still feel flustered if someone asks me to define mine. I think this is because our callings are bigger than us. A calling is something we participate in. That’s where seeing calling as a theme makes sense to me. It threads itself through a wide variety of situations and actions, giving a narrative grounding to our lives that helps us make sense of the big picture. I feel like an overarching theme to my life can be found in three words: Inspire, Influence, Impact. Most of the things I love to do or the people I find compelling could be summed up with these words. I connected with these words in college, when I started noticing how much they were cropping up in my journal. They are words I’ve been repetitively drawn to, words I would like to embody. I hope that my life work and my relationships will reflect these words, even though the work and the relationships will change over time.
Right now, I think my calling is about sharing what I’m learning with others – I’m such a reader and so many people don’t have time to read – so I feel like part of my calling is about distilling information I can share (hopefully it inspires and influences). I love discussion and I want people to live in the freedom and joy of Christ and to truly anticipate the glory of Heaven (hopefully this has an impact). So in whatever ways I can spark these themes in my daily life, I think that is my calling. It sure makes life exciting.
ROLES: The themes in your calling will play out in the roles you are called to
I think a lot about roles as I watch my friends becoming parents and wonder what will happen when John and I move on to that next phase of our lives. Calling to certain roles is about our relationships and these definitely change over time. While roles like husband, wife, father, mother, daughter, son last for lifetimes (hopefully), many roles we put on and take off again after a season. You may feel called to be a Resident Assistant, to join the PTA or to be the caretaker of elderly parents. At the same time, you may have a calling thrust upon you with no warning (take the role of caring for a sick family member for instance). Is it still a calling if you didn’t choose it? The tension between choosing and being chosen for a calling is something I’ll let you chew on.
Roles can also mean specific careers. Many people feel called to their jobs, whether they’re lawyers or nurses, teachers, politicians or scholars. These are jobs in which the themes of your calling play out. “I feel called to be a police officer” can also mean “I feel called to protect the weak and bring justice where there is evil.” While a police officer may retire or change jobs, those themes will probably continue to be part of his or her life.
TASKS: You can be called to specific tasks or projects at specific times for a specific season
I really believe calling is actually much more fluid than just finding one mission in life. I think we often wish we could just find that one thing we’re supposed to do because then our lives could wrap up as neatly as a 90 minute action film. Winding paths with lots of detours and changing circumstances over a lifetime don’t usually make good movie material, but they do make great lives. We can have specific callings that change over time, influenced by experiences, various stages of life (especially in regards to roles) and affected by external circumstances. Many leaders are called to lead for a season. You can complete things that you feel called to, like writing a book or going on a missions trip. So in that case, maybe you can have “many” callings, though again, I would say that a common theme likely weaves these specific tasks or projects, creating patterns and a sense of cohesion in the fabric of your life.
Most of all I think about calling as a posture, an attitude of availability, a willingness to see your place in a greater narrative and participate fully in giving yourself when and where you see the opportunities to do so. Calling isn’t something we need to be desperate to find and it’s not something that locks us in to doing just one thing the rest of our lives. Instead, following a calling is a vehicle for growth, a way to serve through our strengths, the freedom to participate as only we can.
Does this resonate with you? Do you see this in your own life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!