I have been reading a lot lately on the idea of “calling.” It is amazing to see all the diverse views of what it means to be called by God.
I especially see this confusion in young people: What college is God calling me to? Who is God calling me to marry? What is God calling me to do with my life?
But some of these questions don’t stop with the passing of youth. Most of us are constantly looking for what God’s will is in our lives and what exactly we are being called to do with our existence on this planet.
There also seems to be an assumption that a true “call” on someone’s life has to be some sort of non-profit or church work in order for it to be truly Christian. I think when we present the idea of “calling” like this we do our world a disservice.
At times, a call can mean a new job, a new ministry, or a life-changing event. At other times, a call is to be right where you are. Maybe it is enduring what you are going through because God has something in store on the other side. Maybe it is simply staying put and viewing you place in life with new eyes and interacting with people in new ways.
Calling can mean a lot of things, and I think we need a richer theology of calling.
It is no accident that these stories of calling occur during these Ordinary days of reflecting on what the arrival of Jesus means in our lives.
So I want to make just a few observations about calling based on our Scriptures this week:
1. God designed you with specific talents and abilities. The things you find enjoyable, the things you are good at, the things that make your heart come alive are not accidents. They are part of your design. The Isaiah passage speaks of a call from birth, the Corinthians passage speaks of sustenance and strength as we use our gifts. God puts talents and desires within you for a reason and provides the strength and courage to use them. If we want to live out God’s calling we need to find what we are gifted with and what makes our hearts come alive.
2. You have a story to tell. The Psalmist’s story starts in despair, John’s story is about seeing Jesus with new eyes, Peter’s story is getting a new name, Andrew’s story is simply figuring out who Jesus is and nothing ever being the same. You may think you story is not glorious enough, or right now all your story is filled with is difficulty, frustration, or heartache. Jesus wants you to know that no matter what your story is, it is an important story. It needs to be shared. Part of our calling is seeing the work of God weaving our stories together – the good, the bad, the difficulty, the joyous, the extraordinary, and the mundane. It all matters.
3. Our calling points people to God. John realizes his calling is not to attract followers, but to get people to Jesus. That sentence might be worth reading again. When John receives his calling, he points people to Jesus. When Andrew gets his calling, he brings Peter to Jesus. When the prophet in Isaiah gets his calling, it is to be a light point the way top God. Our calling, talents, gifts, and abilities are used to help people see God in fresh ways. Maybe this is a stay at home mom teaching her kids what God looks like as she cares and nurtures them. Maybe it is a salesman who treats people as people rather than dollar signs. The point is not our success and looking God, the point is better illuminating Christ for all the people we come in contact with.
4. When we give our calling to God, God does amazing things. A calling is not a duty we better figure out or we are in trouble, a calling is part of what makes us become more fully human as we partner with God. Our calling can be difficult, we can question it, we can be enthralled by it at times and at times we can hate it. And at other times we may be enthralled and hate it simultaneously. But when we trust that God wants to use us and make us come alive, God shows up in amazing ways (see the Isaiah passage).
These four items may not solve the problem of what exactly or calling is, but they can be helpful in understanding what a calling looks like. When we determine to have all we do point to God, when we tell our story just as it is and when we partner with God in making our hearts come alive and enlivening the hearts of those around us, God does greater things than we could ever ask or imagine.
And that’s Good News.