How to Find your Calling

In my last blog entry, I asked “What is your Calling?” and covered a number of related issues. I first discussed that a ‘calling’ is the secret of who you are meant to be, instead of something that you simply do (for a living, etc.). I also shared that I believe a vocation and a calling are different for most people, and that the former won’t ultimately fulfill you, but the latter can – and does, if you can devote yourself to it and pursue it for all it’s worth. Finally, I mentioned that a calling is typically an expression that manifests into action. Ideally, it implicates your heart, helps you feel closer to God, provides a solid measure of transcendent joy and satisfaction (even when it gets rough, and even when you fail sometimes), and something you feel burdened (in a good way) to live it out.

Now, I want to share some thoughts on my calling – and how you can discover yours.

“If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the whole world on fire.” ~ St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, Dominican Mystic (1347-1380)

I believe that. I believe our calling has that kind of potential. And I think we choose a vocation, but a calling chooses us. And it likely has chosen us a long time ago, but perhaps we’ve never really given it the room, freedom, and encouragement to grow.

I’d believe my calling is writing. It completely engages my heart. It definitely helps me feel closer to God. It brings me a measure of joy that I can only describe as transcendent. And I feel absolutely compelled to share what I’m learning. One of my life verses is Isaiah 50:4, which says “The Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” I have meditated on that verse for as long as I can remember, and prayed about this for decades. And life has just worked out in a way where I can see His hand on this area of my life, through positive and negative reinforcement, through opportunities, through years in the crucible where He refined me and my abilities. It is who I am, it is what I want to be, it is what I cannot help but do. Nothing else compares. And I kind of expect God to use it to set the world on fire.

I think we choose a vocation, but a calling chooses us. And it likely has chosen us a long time ago, but perhaps we’ve never really given it the room, freedom, and encouragement to grow.

How are you supposed to find your calling? Great question. I think it involves trying a bunch of different things over the weeks and months and years. Breaking out of routine. Considering new potentials you may have. If an opportunity or experience seems to resonate with you in a unique way, go for it. And then assess it very carefully. Some of these questions might help:

Is your heart engaged in the activity, and do you feel like it comes alive when you do it? If it doesn’t stand out to you, it’s probably not your calling.

Is it deepening your relationship with God? Is it fueling your desire to do great things for Him, sourced in the gifts He has given you?

Does it lift your spirits in a way that few other activities do? Does it provide a measure of contentment, reassurance, and peace that you are on the right track, doing the right thing, and plugged in to something that matters?

Does it feel like the world would miss out if you didn’t do it? Not to feed your self-importance, but does it feel weighty, important, and like something you feel compelled to do with your life?

Does it feel like play? Am I able to lose myself for a few moments or hours like I did when I was a kid? To be sure, sometimes it’s going to be hard and some days, to be honest, you’re not going to feel like it. Other days, you’re going to be inspired but have to deal with other related tasks that are draining. For example, I love to write, but I hate to do anything related to marketing my writing. I’d just rather keep writing, but both are important if a person wants his/her voice to be heard. The point here is that overall, in the big picture, you need to enjoy it and find yourself getting swept up in it.

Am I listening to others? This one comes with a caveat, because in listening to ‘others,’ I mean the ‘others’ in my life who know me, love me, and are cheering for me. Their input is important because my calling isn’t just intended to be lived out for one person (me), but for the people around me. I mean, God made us for Him and he made us for others. And so other people will always be a part of our calling.

Is my calling an idol? My calling should never become a wall I put up to isolate, or a platform to stand on to look down on others. It should never be used in a selfish, egotistical way, but should be used humbly, lightly, and generously. If I find myself bristling with annoyance at someone getting in the way of me and my calling, I need to check my heart and wonder if it’s become an idol.

You might have to try twenty things before you discover your calling. You might stumble upon it the first time. And it will probably not be associated with fireworks, fanfare, and perhaps even much fun some (many?) times. I can think of many legends of the faith and legends of our modern era, and it’s clear that their calling involved a lot of grinding, hard work, and sacrifice. And there were definitely disappointments, and even failures along the way (and even in the end). But it was still their calling. We should just remember that even when it gets really rough, and even when it doesn’t seem to be making a difference, it still is absolutely what you were called to do.

I can think of many legends of the faith and legends of our modern era, and it’s clear that their calling involved a lot of grinding, hard work, and sacrifice. And there were definitely disappointments, and even failures along the way (and even in the end). But it was still their calling.

At the end of my life I am going to be endlessly grateful for the opportunities that came my way and the things I was able to accomplish. But I feel that if I only kept doing my vocation (and even if I succeed at it beyond my wildest imaginations), it will feel in part like a hollow victory. It will fall short on some level – it just will. And so I just want to keep nourishing the seed He planted in me. I just want to keep focused on living out my calling – doing what I know to do, and leaving the rest up to Him.

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