How Decisions Do and Don’t Define You

Anyone who has access to the internet is probably aware of a major decision that happened in the United States today. As the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to prevent gay marriage, people across the country either celebrated or scoffed at the announcement.

Regardless of your position, there are some critical things to remember:
  1. This is still a free country. Just because other people get to do something you may not approve of, that does not directly infringe on your freedom.
  2. Jesus always, again ALWAYS, took a stance of loving others. That should be our first priority as Christians.
  3. This decision was not taken lightly. And it does not define you.
That last point is what I want to focus on today. Making decisions is hard, whether it effects a whole country or just you. But regardless of the decisions other people make, you always have control over your ability to decide who you are and what you believe in.

You may have noticed that I did not post anything on the blog yesterday. Even though I challenged myself to post everyday for 30 days, I am not perfect. A storm of everything going wrong spun through my day yesterday, leaving me disheveled in body and mind. By the time I had the chance to try and write something, I only had an hour before I was supposed to be at a book club. So I could either eat dinner and not post, then go to book club. Or I could eat dinner and then write a post, and not go to book club. Or I could skip dinner, write a post, and go to book club. And most likely break down afterwards.

Faced with this monumental decision, heavy with serious consequences (sarcasm font please), I sat down and cried. Anyone with anxiety knows that one of the greatest sources of stress is having to make decisions. It doesn’t matter how important they are, even the smallest option can send you into a tailspin.

After blubbering on the phone to my patient fiance, I resolved I needed to eat. There was decision one. Then, when faced with the decision between writing a blog post that would probably end up cranky and whiny, or going to be social and feel comforted by wonderful friends, I decided on the second one. And I don’t feel at all guilty about choosing people over my pride.

This may seem minor to you, but the way we make decisions, and the way we live with them, is important. 

Sheena Iyengar in her TED talk “The Art of Choosing” points out the many assumptions we hold about the importance of choices, and how her research on choice, both in the U.S. and in other cultures, suggests that having endless choices isn’t always a good thing. She says, “A number of my studies have shown that when you give people 10 or more options when they’re making a choice, they make poorer decisions, whether it be health care, investment, other critical areas. Yet still, many of us believe that we should make all our own choices and seek out even more of them.”

Iyengar points out that “the American standard of choice requires that everyone treat choice as a private and self-defining act.” So when the Supreme Court makes a choice that someone may not agree with, this feels like an imposition on his or her own identity and ability to privately define such things.
“For modern Americans who are exposed to more options and more ads associated with options than anyone else in the world, choice is just as much about who they are as it is about what the product is,” Iyengar says.

Following this logic, a nationwide choice made by someone else may feel like a direct affront to who you are.

I’m here to tell you it’s not.

Whether you are deciding between writing a blog post or going to book club, supporting gay marriage or speaking out against it, these decisions are part of the free will that God gave us all. Let me repeat that, God gave us ALL free will.  God did not only give free will to the Christians and then say they could mandate everyone else’s decisions. Whether you agree with the SCOTUS decision or not, free will enables us to make our own choices, as long as they don’t directly hurt anyone else.

We need to trust that the Supreme Court took this decision seriously, that they consulted and debated with everyone’s best interest in mind. This is democracy in action, and it applies to all of us. A decision has been made, and how we live with that decision will define us and the God we represent. 

Let us be people of love rather than people of hurt. Let our decisions be driven by fellowship, rather than fear. Let others make their own decisions, and know that it doesn’t change who you are.

Iyengar finishes her TED talk with this wisdom–“No single narrative serves the needs of everyone everywhere. Moreover, Americans themselves could benefit from incorporating new perspectives into their own narrative, which has been driving their choices for so long.” The American narrative of choice is still important, and your ability to make decisions isn’t going anywhere. However, we need to remember that our narrative may be different from our neighbors, and that is ok.

Some decisions may be minor, but other decisions are a complicated bundle of pride, fear, anxiety, hope, and faith. The only way to trust in the decisions you make is to be confident in who you are. God loves you deeply, and the decisions we make don’t change God’s sovereignty or love. The decisions others make won’t change that either. 

How do you feel about the decisions other people make?
How do your decisions define you?

 

What’s Missing From Pixar’s Inside Out

After a successful opening weekend, Pixar’s new film Inside Out is getting rave reviews. It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98% and has already passed $100M at the box offices. Most people are applauding how Pixar conveyed the complex idea of animating the emotions inside a person’s brain in a dynamic and simple way, while adding classic humor and a tear-jerking story. *No spoilers, I promise.

Inside Out does deliver a powerful message about the role our emotions play in our daily decisions. We often understand emotions as the result of an action or event, so they are usually the effect of something. For example, it is common for us to say “I did poorly at work today, which made me sad” or “I lost my keys, which made me angry.”

But this ignores the fact that actions and events can actually be the effect of our emotions, meaning they are the root cause. That completely changes the mindset when you understand “I was sad, which made me do poorly at work today” or “I was angry, which made me lose my keys.” Inside Out demonstrates this well, because it is the emotions that power the actions of 11 year-old Riley, not the other way around.

Amy Poehler, who voices the emotion Joy in the movie, notes this neglect of our emotional intelligence when discussing her character on her website. She says, “we are really focused on the external as a society, so we are really into what happens to you, rather than how you feel about what happens to you.”

By making emotions the focus, Inside Out redefines the negative connotation emotions carry. In most Western cultures, we associate emotions with negative metaphors (perhaps a beast or a tornado) and view them as problematic annoyances. But Inside Out shows how vital our emotions are to the ability to adapt and navigate life. More specifically, the narrative suggests that even “negative” emotions, like sadness, are vital to our well being. We need to embrace every emotion in a balanced way in order to accurately understand our experiences and the resulting actions.

Even still, there is a remarkably significant part of Inside Out that people have yet to recognize–there is no villain. It isn’t obvious because the plot is engaging and follows a natural path of conflict and resolution, but the absence of a villain teaches us a very important lesson.

Our minds, and our emotions, are not the enemy.

No single emotion, whether it be anger, sadness, disgust, or fear, is bad. The fact that they are not the villains of Inside Out represents the truth that we need all of those emotions.

As an American, I frequently get frustrated by my feelings and I’m irritated that they prevent me from the ideal mode of happiness that our culture is taught to strive for. But constant happiness is a myth, and ignoring our other emotions has left this country with a lot of deep scars.

As a Christian, I have often felt like some of my emotions are wrong, or that I’m not strong enough in my faith because I feel sad and afraid at times. This is another lie we need to dispel, because our faith and our relationship with God are not determined by our feelings.

Colossians 1:21-23 says:
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, [Christ] has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (ESV).

The good news of the gospel is that even our minds and our emotions are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus himself experienced anger and sadness and fear, all of which were godly. Our emotions can be bad if they come from a place of hostility or evil, but by centering ourselves on Christ our emotions are restored to a healthy and necessary part of our lives. 

Pixar’s new movie is worth seeing for many reasons, but it is worth remembering because of what it can teach us. Emotions are not a bad thing, your mind is not the enemy, and Amy Poehler will always be a perfect casting choice.

Have you seen the movie yet?
What did you think?

When Defeat Meets Gratitude

It seems I dropped off the map again this month. After moving to a new city I rotated through days like playing cards during the game of War. Each day was slapped down in hopes for a high card, a winner. Although they say there is an equal amount of every number card in the deck, it is easy to forget facts and feel as if every day was a 2 or 3 draw instead of an Ace. The low card days involved endless job applications, rejection letters, and a lot of Netflix.

Most post-grads and twenty-somethings can relate to this feeling because we have all lingered in the limbo zone between college and real life. We watch our friends get jobs and secretly resent them, we wonder what we are doing wrong, and we like to blame anything else while still feeling as if it is entirely our fault that life doesn’t come together perfectly. It reminds me of riding Autotopia at Disneyland – technically the track is guiding my car but I still have to steer and it ends up as a bumpy, lurching ride where I leave feeling like a bad driver (and forget that this ride was created fifty years ago).

If I am honest with myself this last month included just as many high card days. I explored beautiful parks full of leafy pathways and ocean views. I met new people with interesting stories. Now at the end of the month, I technically have three jobs: two are seasonal retail positions I picked up to get me through until I could find something more permanent, but as of last week my third offer is a real-life adult position with normal hours and salary pay.

But even as I rounded the bend of a more positive outlook, the skies darkened with bad news from the world outside. I sat in my empty apartment Monday evening refreshing the news pages until finally the result came out: not indicted. This was lower than a low card, it was like throwing a joker on the deck. The worst part was that I wasn’t surprised.  Another defeat, another night of violence, and the war rumbles on.

There has been a lot of conversation regarding this issue, and in a moment like this I do believe that God gave us the feeling of anger to allow the pangs of injustice to seep into our hearts. It is more than ok to grieve and be angry – it is necessary.

But what we do with that anger is another story. I think the distinction comes from gratitude – because there is ungrateful anger, that disrespects other people’s safety and property in rage, and there is grateful anger, that understands grace enough to remember the ways we have been forgiven and use the pain to make a positive change.

Isaiah 53: 3-6 reminds me of several important points in moments of grief and suffering:

     He was despised and rejected by men,

          a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

     Like one from whom men hide their faces

          he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

     Surely he took up our infirmities

          and carried out our sorrows,

          yet we considered him stricken by God,

          smitten by him, and afflicted.

     But he was pierced for our transgressions,

          he was crushed for our inequities;

          the punishment that brought us peace was

               upon him,

          and by his wounds we are healed.

     We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

          each of us has turned to his own way;

          and the Lord has laid on him

          the iniquity of us all.”

What a comfort to know that Jesus has felt every degree of injustice, he knows personally the experiences of those who are ostracized, and that through his sorrows he gave us the gift of undeserved peace. This is the message I need to remind myself of when it feels like the world might never be fair, when I wonder what has happened to the noble cause of equality for all people, when it feels like history is repeating itself in the bleeding lashes of racial misunderstanding.

Although it may seem impossible to be grateful during a time like this, it is actually more fitting that we should celebrate Thanksgiving in the midst of pain so that we can remember the core of what we really have to be thankful for. Even if I didn’t have a job yet, or if our justice system continues to be faulted, there are fundamental parts of life to be thankful for that I tend to forget.

More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving should be the one to remind us about other moments of injustice and racism that occurred in our history, as well as how we can transform that pain (without forgetting it) into a beautiful thing. Despite the inaccurate and misrepresented history behind the day itself, what it represents now is what makes it great. Even our holidays deserve forgiveness for their past mistakes–as Christians we can acknowledge that the history behind Thanksgiving was actually horrible, but Jesus calls us to move beyond bad history into a future of redemption. The pilgrims slaughtered the Indians, and Paul persecuted Christians. One went on to write a portion of the Bible and found the church, so maybe the others can move past their history as well. Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving the same way we live as Christians, not dwelling on the sins of our past but on a future of reconciliation and hope. We can grieve and learn from our mistakes to change systems of injustice into opportunities for redemption.

On every side of the story in Ferguson there is pain. Beyond Ferguson there is also pain, despite every rejection letter or the months without jobs or any moment of defeat, there are still things to be thankful for. We all have our own grievances, our own guilt, and our own low-card days that we must work hard to recover from. But the good news of Jesus comes with gratitude–no matter how heavy the injustice or the pain we should remember “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.” Jesus knows that pain, and he will sit with us in our grief. But he can also provide us with a peace that passes all understanding, and being thankful for every moment is what allows us to move forward into a world that does amazing things in spite of pain.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

The Silent Danger of the To-Do List

Some of you may have noticed that I dropped off the map the last few weeks, and since I had only updated you on the first two weeks of a four week trip perhaps you wondered if something treacherous had happened (so kind of you, really). Good news though – I’m alive and well back in the United States.

My third week of research in Sweden uncovered a depth of complexity that is hidden behind the facade of a perfectly peaceful social system. I gleaned this information not through a scholarly article or a lecture, but more often among lunch conversations and extended hallway interactions. At one lunch, in the upstairs room of a restaurant occupying the old student prison at Uppsala University, a researcher summarized her perspective on the situation for me.

“The Swedish mentality is one of silence. Don’t say anything and avoid conflict. Everyone believes the vision of Sweden as this historically peaceful country, but that is because of silence on the darker facts.”

Silence is often associated with peacefulness. But there are two types of silence: one is receptive to truth and the other rejects truth.

By being present with each person I met, and asking the right questions, I was reminded of how necessary it is to be receptive instead of rejecting. In a new environment, I often retreat to a position of silence where I can safely observe for awhile. I must then choose whether to be receptive or rejecting of the things I observe in that position of silence. The obvious example is being aware of the judgments I make and whether they are biased or fair. However I must also be aware of myself and the actions I’m taking; it is easy to take notes and reject any sort of personal involvement, but it is much harder to be receptive to an invitation to participate.

The Uppsala Cathedral through early morning fog - a good reminder that God is still there even when something in our lives distracts us from seeing Him fully.

The Uppsala Cathedral through early morning fog – a good reminder that God is still there even when something in our lives distracts us from seeing Him fully.

This is true not only for doing research, but in daily life as well. I stopped blogging for a month because I got swept up in a complex travel itinerary, catching up with friends and family once I returned home, and then moving to a brand new city. Although it was beneficial for me to be present in each of those moments, there is a difference between living in the moment, receptive to invitations, and living in the to-do list, rejecting risky endeavors.

My silent danger is that to-do list. I grow consumed by checking things off and reject the potential moments that get in the way. I deny the possibility for peace of mind because “I just don’t have time right now.” Then, as usual, the truth of what I could be doing gets put on the back burner. This mentality also avoids conflict, because I am preventing the tension between what I need to do and my true calling of what I could do. The peace I pretend to achieve is just a cover for the peace I lack – because I can get things done without actually getting to where and who I want to be. So either I’m a really good Swede, or this is a widespread condition in humans.

Oswald Chambers wrote

“A Christian worker has to learn how to be God’s man or woman of great worth and excellence in the midst of a multitude of meager and worthless things.”

The to-do lists we busy ourselves with contain a multitude of meager things. The challenge then is to move towards a place of receptiveness, peace, or presence that is worth more than whatever we keep distracting ourselves with.

Since I just moved to a new city, I quickly found myself in that silent, observational position where I am rejecting potential moments of worth because I have too many other things to do. Although this can create a seemingly peaceful standard of feeling accomplished, I am aware of how this enables my avoidance of conflict because I don’t want to face the truth of what I could be doing instead.

For some of us, the to-do list keeps us from monumental life changes like the career we wish we had or the life of faith we are too afraid to embrace. For others, the to-do list prevents us from small moments of meaning, invitations to care for another person, or even gratitude for simple things. Whatever it is, to achieve a life of excellence and great worth requires being receptive to the less obvious parts of life. Once we begin to focus on what we really want to be doing, instead of only what needs to be done, we can find the meaning we are all striving for in life.

This is a daily challenge. Remember to give yourself grace for the days when your to-do list is all you can manage. Unfortunately sometimes that is simply where we are in life. But don’t settle because you think you aren’t capable of anything more. Instead of outright rejecting the invitations for new experiences, avoiding the conflicts of fear and insecurity, open yourself up to the possibility of meaning even in the smallest of moments. They say you can’t find something you aren’t looking for—it is true not only for the things we are too afraid to face, but also for the joy we don’t believe we can achieve. The beauty of hope is believing God has something more meaningful in store for you than your to-do list, as long as you are willing to be receptive enough to look for it.

 

How has your to-do list prevented you from being receptive?

What things would you do if you didn’t have anything else in your way?

When You Don’t Leave the House All Day

The car, the front door, and even shoes, are being neglected by me.
 
This summer has provided me with many days where I don’t need to leave the confines of my brother’s house (where he and my sister-in-law have been kind enough to let me crash for the summer) and instead cocoon myself into its barriers. The house itself is not overly large, so a day spent inside is mostly spent between one or two rooms. I wake up at the early, but not too early, hour of 7:00 am. A shower is sometimes in order, or maybe not, and a bowl of frosted shredded wheat gives me enough fiber to support an activity level I will barely reach. I also maintain some social contact when my boyfriend, my brother, and my sister-in-law return from working hard all day. It helps to not live alone in these situations.
 
Though there may be downsides to not leaving the house as often, I have gained many glimpses into the interior world, this place where full-time writers, stay-at-home parents, and my fellow unemployed spend so much time.
 
It is both a chasm and a bridge, a trap and a doorway. Loneliness does lurk in this place, and more exercise would probably be beneficial. But the lure of time alone gives my introverted self space to simply be, something many of us neglect. We live in a culture of doing, not being, where we could all probably benefit from days where we don’t leave the house. In the wise words of April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation):
 
Staying home all day also allows me to find gems like this.

Staying home all day also allows me to find gems like this. (courtesy of Buzzfeed)

 
In the past I would never embrace such a seemingly lazy perspective. I have always been a worker bee, more comfortable with overloaded schedules, long to-do lists, and a scurrying demeanor.
 
Ironically enough, over the course of the last year I have again and again felt God pressing me and drawing me back to this message:
“BE STILL, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
 
To fill my time indoors I’ve been reading a lot, and although I love reading, I must admit that in the past few years I rarely allowed myself the indulgence. Why? For the same reasons I didn’t watch a lot of TV, kept my busy bee schedule, and never crafted as much as my Pinterest boards suggest: because relaxation is a treat.
 
If there is one thing I’m bad at, it’s relaxing. Part of my goal for this summer was to learn how to do simply that: relax. It might seem like a funny concept, the need to learn how to relax, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone and our culture doesn’t teach it well. The word itself makes my back tense instinctively, it makes me grab for my phone to check my emails and the news and the weather and other things I’ve sanctioned as “productive.”
 
Relaxing is connected to being in the way that it requires us to release the parts of our lives that so often define who we are. What we do is what we are, or so it seems. But the truth is that I still exist, I can still be, without doing anything. What is even more amazing, is that God loves me that way. Once I remember that, I discover that by learning how to simply be, how to exist confidently in my identity as someone who is loved no matter what, my doing will gain greater strength from my being.
 
Learning to be still and relax reminds me to trust that God’s love is unconditional, it doesn’t depend on how much I do or don’t do. I think that’s the significance of the verse from Psalm 46, because being still requires us to know, not just hope or guess or question, the fact that God is truly a loving God.
 
Plus, what we often relegate to “down time” (as if it is beneath other more productive time) is more valuable than we give it credit for. One of the books I just finished, a set of essays by Jonathan Franzen, said that “the first lesson reading teaches is how to be alone.” How to be alone is related to how to just be, because when we are alone we must face our very being. The second thing reading does is illuminate what being looks like in relation to the world around us, because reading gives us compassion and empathy to understand others.
 
Spending a day entirely inside, exploring the corners of the house and the mind, I learn to appreciate the way the sun shines through the front window in the morning, the stubborn growth of a parched kitchen plant, and the elasticity of time itself. I might not have a long list of things I “accomplished” in concrete terms, but I can say that I pondered the world around me and considered my place of being within that world.
 
If it helps any of you out there still doubting the value of my staying inside all day, I also did the dishes. So there.
 
How do you feel when you don’t leave the house all day?
 
Is it hard for you to let yourself relax sometimes?

The Truth About Rejection

At first, it sucks. After an hour, it still sucks. Some time later, it gets better. Supposedly.

The sky swells as the sun abandons this side of the world, clouds block out the hope of stars. The cracked desert wonders why the rain never actually materializes. Even the moon seems hazy on the whys and why nots. You ponder the planets, the depth of the universe, and you feel a deeper sympathy for poor rejected Pluto. Rejection happens in space too, you say. Maybe you hide under the covers, letting the air grow heavy with your exhales. Sleep seems like the best solution, but your heavy eyelids aren’t enough to keep the gremlins of negativity from threading through your mind.

The initial thoughts spiral something like this: oh well, so that’s that, they didn’t like me, what do I care, I guess I do care, I could’ve done better, why did I say those things, maybe they are threatened by success, who am I kidding I’m not a success, what is success anyways, why does it matter, why can’t I stop thinking about this, why why why. Ice cream.

I’ve never experienced a tornado in real life, but I think my brain can relate to it after being rejected. It swirls through vortexes, around space and time until the wind dies down and everything I had previously settled has been disrupted.

Rejection is the disruption of what you thought you knew was good.
 
The good part is it means you can redefine what good is. 

As a recent college graduate, rejection is something very common for myself and many of my peers. We spend hours upon hours looking and applying for jobs we aren’t even sure we want. But when we are told we can’t have that job, we believe we wanted it more. My most recent application took me through a month long process of a 15 page proofreading test, an initial interview, and a second two hour phone interview.

Needless to say, rejection hurts more when it has a longer build up.

Rejection is also a close relative to shame, that feeling of worthlessness keeping you from admitting the incident to others.

Personally, it helps me to analyze those feelings more, letting the logic mix with emotion into a dose of truth. Why is it hard to admit when someone rejects me? Probably because I don’t want to reveal that someone didn’t want me, as if giving life to my fears of worthlessness. This circles back to a problem I discussed in my last post though: letting others define my worth.

Would rejection be scary if I truly believed I was wanted and loved no matter what? Would it be hard to admit my rejection to others if I wasn’t afraid of others believing I was unworthy, which is a lie?

Somewhere in time we decided that rejection was always and only a bad thing. We also forgot that Christ came to redefine how we view rejection. His death and resurrection returned us to a perpetual state of un-rejection where we are accepted and loved by God.

With these things in mind, I can redefine rejection. If I believe the truth that I am loved and accepted by God, then what is being rejected is not my worth, but my false conceptions. I built an idea up in my mind as good, and the rejection of that idea simply means I need to redefine what I thought was good. Perhaps there is something even better out there for me, this good was not good enough.

Oh the possibilities! Rejection stops hurting when we look at it as a new opportunity, a chance to seek a greater good than what we previously hoped for. Redefine rejection by rejecting what you thought was good.

I don’t usually use The Message translation, but I love the way it clarifies the meaning of this verse:
“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13)

It’s ok to hide under the covers for a little while, it humbles us into remembering we are human and gives us compassion for people and Pluto. But God’s mercies are new every morning – the sun didn’t really abandon you, it was just giving you time before it came back with it’s warm reminder of a new day.

When have you felt rejected?

How did it work out for good?

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” ?