What is calling? In typical style, I have eluded the most obvious of all the questions so far, and it’s probably because I am generally reluctant about self-assured answers. Calling is a slippery fish.
For one, we can be called into relationships. I knew this back when I was Jen Pollock and met a long hair silent type named Ryan Michel. I might have thought that I was headed either to the mission field or into some kind of vocational ministry, but those plans were upended by the mesmerizing power of the African moon and its power to shift tides. (Ryan and I met on an eight-week missions’ trip to Mali). Calling in my life was decided by love. And it’s not that I suggest that this is always the right way to do it – please don’t throw away all of your grand and God-given plans for every cute boy you meet – but it made prayerful sense to me at the time and was steadily confirmed by the Holy Spirit and by our family and friends.
We are also all called into today’s ordinary responsibilities. You’re a mother. You are called to nurture. You’re an office worker. I hope you’re punctual and can be relied upon. You maintain a house, a car, and an increasing web of relationships. At all these things, work and love as if it were Jesus Himself to whom you were offering your best energies. Don’t miss that calling wears street clothes. You can almost be sure to miss him today if you’re not looking.
But there is also a sense whereby each of us is called into some particular dimension of kingdom service. This may be our everyday work, and it may be something we do in addition to our day job. It’s our particular fit into Body of Jesus Christ. You’re a hand, perhaps? A mouth, a foot, an elbow, a toe? Your function is encouragement, movement, insight, balance? You are workmanship of our Creator, a tool made for use, and there are purposes and projects for which you have been designed.
Which isn’t to say that calling is always static and can never be seasonal. In my younger years (I hope this is sounding like sage advice), I volunteered for all kinds of things. I’ve sung in the worship band, I’ve taught children, I’ve led Bible studies, I’ve written curricula, and I’ve sat on the board for a start-up school. Together, Ryan and I have hosted people for dinner and groups for study. We’ve fostered children, sponsored children through Compassion, attended fundraisers, and pledged our dollars. Many of these things we’ve done when nudged by the Holy Spirit to fill a specific need at a particular time.
But calling isn’t always need-based. The world is a gaping wound, a parched beast; pour your drink offering down its throat, and it will never be sufficient for the healing you long and pray for, which is why it is necessary to be sober and level-headed when considering your calling in response to needs. Needs can overwhelm, inspire a god-complex, exhaust you so fully as to make you of little use to anyone, not the least of whom is God. I know this. It’s why, for a short period of time, I dumped the larger portion of my responsibilities and ended up making the first of a series of appointments with a counselor. I discovered just how long one can run on the fuel of guilted obligation.
Ultimately, calling is a matter of response. We are responding not first to needs but to the One by whom we are owned, which is why all questions of calling are decided by patient listening.
Hear God. And isn’t this almost always the most difficult thing about spiritual life? Hearing God requires the stilling of my own voice, and I like talking. Hearing God requires the stilling of my body, and I like moving. Hearing God requires that I silence the whir and whirl of my life, that I quiet the distractions and lean in. Oh, if only it were easier than this.
Let calling rest on the bedrock of your silence. Find footing for your feet in your practices of solitude. Pull your calling over your head, inside-out.
It’s no way to wear a shirt, but it’s every way to wear a life.