This post appears as part of an interchannel dialogue about vocation and faith. Click here to explore more posts about how our faith and calling connect.
Have you ever asked yourself “What should I do with my life?” when trying to identify your life calling? I know I have—and I’ve heard the question countless times from people young and old trying to figure out their direction in life. But after years of wrestling with the topic—and stepping out by faith to pursue my own calling—I’ve come to think we may be asking the wrong question. What if we stopped asking “What should I do?” and began asking “Who can I love?” The Faith and Vocation channel here at Patheos is engaging some the big questions around calling, vocation, and faith. One question proposed by The Christian History Institute is this: “Does my Christianity change the way I approach my work?” I would argue that it changes the way we approach everything, but especially how we consider where we should invest the bulk of our most finite resource–time.
Must We All Be Pastors?
My travels recently took me to the other side of the world where I had the privilege of spending a few hours with a young man wrestling with finding his life calling. He had recently devoted his life to following Christ and was concerned about making sure his vocation aligned with his new life focus. Prior to His encounter with God, he’d been devoted to various physical exploits such as triathalons, biking, and adventures of that sort. Apparently, there is an entire sub-culture surrounding those activities, one that I confess to knowing very little about. Once he had placed his faith in Christ, he thought he needed to set those things aside and become a pastor. When I asked him why, he said he assumed that being a pastor was the best way he could show his love for God. He presumed that it was the highest life calling for any Christian; therefore, he was determined to pursue it to give God his best. Over the course of a few hours, I explained that his life calling may well include becoming a pastor. But it may not. In fact, I pointed out that the Bible says few of us are called to that vocation; but that doesn’t mean any other calling is somehow less than God’s best. God may call him to touch the lives of people in the outdoor adventure sub-culture in which he had strong ties prior to his new faith adventure. He’d never considered that possibility. He had all but written off any hope of continuing in those pursuits, even though he loved them and felt tremendously fulfilled when participating in them.
Asking the Right Question
To follow one’s life calling should be but a natural extension of following the first and second commandment as identified by Jesus himself: “Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” If we start with that goal in mind, we can view our talents, personalities, aptitudes, strengths—all of it—through this lens: “How am I best equipped to love God and love my neighbor?” If God has equipped you with talent and passion for outdoor activities that foster community then maybe that is how you can best show your love for him and for others. You don’t have to be a pastor to love people. I don’t know your particular passions and talents, of course, though I strongly suggest you figure them out. [ See my posts 5 Questions to Know God’s Will for Your Life and 5 Resources to Discover Your Strengths and Life Purpose] And as your circumstance change through different seasons of life, the details of your life calling will likely shift with it. If you become a parent, for example, your best way to show love will likely not include traveling the surfing circuit with a new born infant. But don’t miss what the scribe said to Jesus and what Jesus affirmed to Him:
The greatest worship we can give to our Creator is to love God and love our neighbor. If we start there when determining our life calling, somehow I think it will be hard to go wrong.
Right Here. Right Now.
Asking this question leads me to this conclusion: we can start today to both prepare for and identify that life calling by asking “How can I best love God and love my neighbor where I am right now?” Of course, you should pursue a deeper understanding of your gifts and talents. I would highly recommend reading such valuable books as Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy Sherman or Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by Steven Garber. Be creatve in exploring the opportunities God has placed before you and imagine new doors on which you might knock. But you can only hit the pitch that is being thrown to you at the moment. So right her, right now, what can you do to show your love for God and your neighbor? Make that question the core of your life calling and you may just be surprised where that journey takes you. What role has the question “Who can I love?” played in your own journey to discover your life calling? What advice might you offer to those wrestling with the question of vocation in light of God’s call to put love first? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts. Have you subscribed to our email updates? Click here to sign up to get free FaithWalkers posts in your inbox each week.