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” ?


Backwards to Forwards: Being What We Already Are

A few days ago I was all excited to do a follow up post on Walking Panda, one that triumphantly stated how I found some training techniques to teach him to walk better and they were working brilliantly. Yesterday afternoon God knocked down that sand castle for me (I need to remember to thank Him for it later). As I yanked Panda down the sidewalk, pulling him away from other dogs and distractions, I was a wreck of angry tears. So much of me was frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t make anything in my life right now go the way I wanted it to, but then I didn’t even know what was the right way to go.

One of the techniques the dog training website told me was that while walking the dog if they get more excited and stop walking beside or behind you, you should stop to make them sit and command their attention again. Sometimes this requires going backwards a little bit, walking behind to where the dog will have to retreat to follow you.

Since I am clearly the dog in this metaphor, I decided to stop and sit with God this morning to see where He would take me, even if it meant going backwards a bit.

Going backwards isn’t too hard for me actually. Frequently my beliefs even lean on the side of what they call “old fashioned” or “backwards.” Saving sex for marriage, going to church weekly, not cursing or swearing — I am certainly not a modern miss. I never really like trendy things anyways.

My heart likes to wonder though, if maybe going backwards in this sense could be a good thing. Going backwards, before my eyes were tainted by the lies of this world, before things got all messed up, back to a time when things were the way God intended them. This only leaves me one destination: Eden.

Backwards to Eden is where I want to go, before the apple crunched with the crisp juice of ruined innocence, before that juice ran down Eve’s beautiful cheek, dripping off with the sting of something spoiled. I want to go back to the time when God looked around and said ” This is good, this is tov, this is beautiful, created, the way I want it to be.”

The screech of my tea kettle just halted that day dream, waking me back to this reality. A reality where my lungs feel the pressure of air too thick with heartache, where my head is immersed in the doubts of a fearful world. I am drowning out here. My confidence continues to sink because I question every move I make, uncertain of what to do and what is right or wrong. Right or wrong — I circle back to you to wonder if you really even exist, or are you part of the lies the world told me? Were you implanted in my life to coarse through my veins and pump out a poison I must live on forever, an IV filled with Hollywood and material wants and lusting desires? Or is grace the anecdote to cure such sickness? The grace of a God who can redeem any wrong to right or any right that is really wrong.

even a sunset helps me to remember that sometimes we have to go down or back before we can go up or forward

Why I focus on the details and drown in my imagined fears is not an answer I think I need. Sometimes going back to sort through the rubble will leave you with nothing but more questions and wasted time. The time comes where I must hand over the tools to the real builder, the one that knows what He is doing, and trust that He can do it right, He will do it right, because He has done it before.

I realized that so much of what Jesus said was in present tense — “You are the light of the world,” “you are God’s holy people,” for “with God all things are possible.” The “will be” possibility of something wasn’t even acknowledged because it was already true at that very time. Without moving in any direction, without doing any more right or wrong, all people needed to do was believe for those things to take effect. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are already purified from any poison, we are already good, and we are already beautifully created the way God intended us to be. All that’s left to do is accept that truth, and let it take us backward to change every lie the world has told us — at that point we will have gone back so far as to come forward to a new way of life.

Thanks for reading and letting me share what can be a hard journey.

How do you have to go backwards sometimes in order to go forward?

Any tips on walking a dog? :)

Not of this World… but What Would Jesus Do?

“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” – John 17:14-15

I read this verse the other day as part of a daily exercise I am trying, but it made me think a lot about what this means for our relationship to the world and the culture around us.

This verse, and other similar ones, have certainly left a trail of misunderstanding in some places where some Christians decided that they can simply disengage from the rest of the world because they are not of this world. This also leads some Christians to adopt a nose-in-the-air attitude as they consider themselves above this world and superior to it. On the other hand, it has also led many to understand their responsibility to engage in this world as representatives of the kingdom of heaven.

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