Calling B.S. on Easy Callings

When attempting to inspire young adults like myself, many Christians have offered this quote from Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” This sounds wonderful doesn’t it?

But I’m calling out every pastor that has ever said this to me: stop sugar coating what a “calling” looks like. 

For years I waited, yearning for this jubilant, glad calling. I brainstormed every possible passion I might have, how it could be used for God’s glory, and hoped God would send me a burning bush to guide the way. The problem was, there were a lot of options I could choose from. Did God want me to bring the kingdom through hiking and the outdoors? Or maybe he wants me to start a nonprofit where I make crafts all day for a great cause? Or perhaps I can start a ministry with puppies, there is definitely a deep gladness in puppies.

Not surprisingly, I’m starting to feel like it doesn’t work that way. I’m sure Buechner is a great guy, but his quote made me believe that my calling would start off as a great gladness; now I’m wondering if a calling ends with gladness and begins with a small decision leading to a terrifying mountain of risky, arduous work.

I’m making assumptions here, but I would guess that Noah was not deeply glad when God told him to build the ark. Moses was also not thrilled when he was told to stand up against Pharaoh and lead people through the desert. Esther probably wasn’t eager to marry some old king who had banished his previous wife. And Mary needed an angel to convince her that virgin pregnancy was something to be glad about.

Among the many things the Bible has to teach us, one of its underlying lessons about being a Christian is that God’s “calling” on a person’s life is rarely easy. Yes it will lead to a much deeper gladness and purpose than life without God, but it will not always be easy. Plus, you don’t always get a burning bush to tell you what to do.

It is audaciously bold to imagine God bestowing us with a clear vision of our calling and a long-term road-map of how it will play out. If God gave us the whole picture, many of us wouldn’t have enough faith to believe in it, let along act on it. Instead he gives us ideas, small inklings of opportunities where we decide whether to answer the call and then follow our chosen path until we hit another crossroads.

The idea that we each have one deep gladness that will meet one specific hunger in the world is similar to believing in soul mates. Too much pressure arises from believing that we need to figure out that one thing, and too much fear follows when we think we might make the wrong decision about what that one thing is.

Our calling is not one giant plan of destiny. It is a fluctuating picture that adapts across the span of our lives, changing as we change and growing as we grow. My “calling” for today might look different from my “calling” in thirty years. Even though the look of my “calling” changes, the foundation of everyone’s call is the same: love God and love others.

A recent article from RELEVANT Magazine tackles this same idea. Chandler Vannoy perfectly summarizes the truth about God’s will for our lives when he says:
“No matter what your future plans are, God wants you to seek and glorify Him right now. Simply put, God’s will is your growth to be like Christ and glorify Him in all things.”

My “calling” is not pre-determined by God. In fact, each of us could have multiple “callings” in our lifetime. Free will means that God allows you to choose a passion; after that He simply wants to be a part of it. Once you pick a path and let God be your counsel through every twist and turn, then you have answered His true calling–to act as His partner in living a life dedicated to His glory.

As a recent college graduate trying to decide my next steps in life, I wrestle with this concept of calling daily. My generation is flooded with the pressure of wanting to change the world, but we can’t expect God to lay the plans in our laps. Instead, I’m learning that God gives us opportunities, small doors and windows that will inevitably involve a lot of hard work. Hard work becomes easier once we let God guide our decisions, not through a burning bush or a roadmap, but through prayer, scripture, and the counsel of others.

No matter what job I do or where I end up, God’s primary calling on my life is to make sure each decision I make offers His love to the world. This a good news for all of us. God will “call” you to many places, and it might involve deep gladness meeting deep hunger, but that call is less specific than you think.

More often than not, our “calling” is to be present in our circumstances and involve God in that place. So in concept it is easy, but in practice it will be hard. In order for deep gladness to meet deep hunger it takes a lot of deep challenges. Be patient, and trust God that you have a purpose no matter where you are or what it looks like to you. He has much better vision anyways.

How have you seen your calling change over time?

Why do you think we latch on to the idea of our “calling” ?


Surprised by Joy… at the DMV

Yesterday morning I had an appointment at the DMV. Similar to most, I was not excited about the prospect of grumpy office workers and long trains of people herded from here to there.

I arrived a half hour before my scheduled appointment time in anticipation of lines more tedious than Disneyland. After parking and walking the long trek to the building, I was faced with the first of such lines before even entering the doors. I was in a pleasant enough mood that this wasn’t too upsetting, I stood patiently watching one person after another disappear through the wooshh of an automatic sliding glass door. I imagined it similar to watching people stand at the gates of heaven or hell – no one really knew what awaited us next.

Shortly enough my time approached. The door almost closed shut on me as I tried to enter, halting my thoughts and starting more fearful questions.

“Did I bring my paperwork?”
“What am I even doing here?”
“Oh right my license renewal.”
“But what if she gets mad at me for being earlier than my appointment?”
“or for asking a stupid question?”
“What if she just gets mad at me?”
“Darn it I already did something stupid – that line over there has a sign for registration appointments”
“Oh well just stay where you are, getting out now would be more stupid.”
“I’m a friendly person, she can’t be too mean. just smile.”

After my brain had finished it’s spiral-loop-double twist I’d made it to the front of the line. Breathe. It’s just the DMV, they are just people, no reason to be intimidated.

She grumbled, “What do you need?”
“Well I have an appointment, but I’m kinda early, but I just need my license renewed,” I flubbered.
All in one breathe she responded “Here’s your number. Give me that appointment sheet. Take a seat.”

Exhaaalllleeeeee. Phew. Ok. Where do I sit? Well right there looks about right, sure ok. I found a place on the end of the row, figuring that at least gave me one side that wouldn’t be smashed against someone else. I had made it through the first line and hadn’t suffered any terrible blows yet. Now I indulged in the only bonus of having to wait – reading my book.

Consumed by the tale of Adam Trask and his haunting wife Cathy, I didn’t hear when they first called it out – “number F004?” The second time only barely rang louder in the back room of my brain – “NUMBER F004?” I fumbled for my ticket stub and paperwork, clutching my book and bag at the same time, I looked around for who could have possibly made the call. Lucky for me, the first window in front of me seemed to be empty, so I tried there first, ready to meet the real beast. It felt like reaching a final level of Zelda, I approached the boss, ready for the worst, but unsure of how to conquer it.

“Good morning! Are you F004?” He smiled with not just his face but his eyes too, filled with a brightness that was mysterious in my imagined dungeon. The Disney lanyard around his neck was dotted with pins for various causes: a light pink breast cancer ribbon, a purple one for Alzheimer’s, and a small waving American flag.

Startled as I was by the sunshine he had just splintered into my cloud fortress, I gathered myself and told him what I needed. “Well I need to renew my license, but I noticed awhile back that my  middle name is spelled wrong, though I don’t know if that matters.”

He kindly explained that it wasn’t a big deal as long as it still looked similar, really they don’t ever look at more than the first initial of the middle name because it is the first and last that matter. Plus, unless I had official documentation showing the correct spelling we couldn’t change it so I told him I was fine to just proceed with renewing the license.

As we went through the required transactions, he kept up a friendly conversation with me of genuine interest. He asked if I’d seen Prometheus, wasn’t too surprised when I explained that no I don’t really enjoy alien movies, but then proceeded to tell me how it is actually an amzing movie because it is all about keeping faith in God.

This was again surprising, because somehow I was discussing God in the DMV. Yup you read that right – religion and civil service had just crossed lines.

Soon enough I learned that he was Catholic, and not a lax one but one who has his family say the Rosary every night before bed. He went to get me change for the $34 my renewal cost, came back singing American Pie.

He tells me “That song is about God too, you know?”
Then resumes singing as he counted out my bills from the Treasury –

“And the three men I admire most-
the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost-
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing

Bye Bye Miss American pie…
bum buh duh dum duh da da da dum”

Somehow I was still a little shocked at what was happening – is this guy still smiling? I’m in the DMV right? Did he just ask me about God again?

Stuck in my head again, he woke me up by handing me the six dollars of change and my receipt of temporary license.

Before sending me on my way, he simply mused  “It’s cool how God shows up in things like that huh? Movies or music or just ordinary stuff.”

Then he jumped clouds to tell me about his upcoming family vacation to go jet skiing on the lake, and with a smile and a “Have a great day!” he wished me off.

 After getting my picture taken the next line over, I couldn’t help smiling as I left the DMV that day. It certainly wasn’t what I had prepared myself for, and somehow the surprise of joy I found in that one Catholic DMV worker was enough to keep me smiling all day. Because it is truly amazing how God can show up in things like that, the places where you don’t expect him, like Alien movies or the DMV. It wasn’t an epiphany or a huge revelation, but it was pure, unhindered joy that spreads a sunshine of hope in our lives that there is light out there in the darkness, even in the darkness of government services.

 Where have you had a moment of joy in the last week?
Have a great weekend everyone :)

Movie Monday: Brave Expectations

Finally, in a packed theater on Friday afternoon, I sat and watched the long-awaited flick of the summer: Brave. The audience ooed and awwed at the stellar animation and daring courage of a girl pushing the boundaries of what it means to be strong. Although it’s a familiar story, they don’t call things classic for no reason.

Overall I really enjoyed it. There was a good balance of action, humor, sentiment, and lesson that made it a very engaging movie. Plus, the main character Merida is a wonderful example of a quirky, independent individual who doesn’t fit the princess mold and is easily relatable to young girls.

Now I am completely biased when it comes to Disney and Pixar, but the reviews and other ratings still agree with me that this was a pretty good movie. The one recurring negative comment I found was that in comparison to other Pixar films this one was sub-standard and “safe.” Honestly, I think that is a result of people holding Pixar to a ridiculously high standard. It is understandable to expect a lot from the company that created hits like the Toy Story trilogy, Finding Nemo, and Cars, but what is actually realistic?