What’s your calling? While we often associate calling with work identity, as in a calling to ministry or a calling to medicine or some-such, in a biblical sense, responding to God’s calling means moving toward God.
The trouble with identifying calling with work identity is that we operate out of a sense of identity that relies on categories invented by and congenial to the modern state (for instance: permanent surnames. See this article in The Economist), and so we come to think of our calling as something rigid, permanent, and all-encompassing. Calling becomes a blank on a form. What are you? You get 15 characters.
The biblical sense of calling takes us far beyond any particular work identity. This is a good thing, because our work identity isn’t enough, and it can all too easily become abused and debased. Are we called to fasten widgets on doohickeys in the factory assembly line? There’s nothing wrong with the factory assembly line as such. But more likely than not, it’s not a calling, it’s a job. Any job is worthy of being done well, but not every job is worthy of defining us as human beings made in the image of God.
When we understand calling as a fixed identity associated with our paying work, then doing the work becomes identity maintenance. In its most pernicious form, we use our work to justify our importance to self and society–maybe even to God. I’m called, therefore I am.
But every human being was meant to be, regardless of the work he or she does–or does not do.
So too, a mistaken understanding of calling can lead those among us with particularly sensitive consciences to live under a shadow of fear, worrying that with any given career choice we might irrevocably derail our lives from God’s perfect plan. I think of one questing college grad who seriously worried that by choosing to teach 2nd grade rather than 1st, the devil might be leading her away from God.
Biblical calling is ultimately about following Christ, and out of that calling doing the work he’s placed on our hearts. Biblical calling doesn’t fixate on specific outcomes; it points us in a particular direction. Calling in this sense is more open and winsome than discovering a fixed identity that God has placed within us and (rather inconveniently) hidden from us.
There’s a kind of anxiety that comes from trying to figure out God’s hidden will for our lives. But what he has called us to is actually quite clear: Follow Jesus. Embrace Christ’s call and go where that takes you
That drive God’s given you? Follow it.
That holy hunger God’s made rumble in your belly? Feed it.
That dream God’s nurtured in your heart of hearts? Fan its flame.
Your calling is one way that God makes you a gift to the world.