Vocation: It’s Not Me vs. God

As part of my work with the Wellspring School of Leadership, I wrestle a decent amount with the question of vocation or calling.  In the church, we often like to talk about feeling a call towards a certain work.  One is not merely employed as a writer or a childcare worker or a doctor, she is called to it.  The underlying notion is that the person has a sense in which God has directly declared that she will do this specific work.

In many ways, I like this way of referring to one’s vocation, as it can grant someone a perspective that her work is a vital part of God’s overall agenda on the earth.

In speaking this way, however, we have to be careful that we don’t psych ourselves out.  I’ve had plenty of conversations with friends over the years in which the idea of receiving a call from the Lord was elevated to an unattainable height.  Somehow, in seeking God’s call, these friends had disregarded their own gifts, abilities, and passions.

But pitting “what I want to do” vs. “God’s call on my life” is a false dichotomy for the Christian walking with the Lord.  (This attitude was most commonly expressed when I was a teen as, “If you really follow the Lord, He’s going to send you to Africa, right where you don’t want to go.”)

Let’s be honest: Not everyone hears a voice out of the sky telling them precisely what to do with their lives.  Nor should they.  For many Christians, the process is appropriately much more organic.  The process of uncovering one’s call may very well begin with the question, “What would I like to do?”  After all, we’ve each been wired in particular ways, with specific interests, skills, and dreams.  And God has had an awful lot to do with that wiring.

In our individual searches for our specific callings, let’s allow the process to develop in conversation with the Lord, rather than, perhaps, simply waiting on a flash of lightning in the sky.  Tell God what it is you’d like to do.  See what He thinks of it; compare it with the trajectory of God’s work in the world, particularly through Jesus; and see if that doesn’t release you to pursue those desires with passion.  Oh, and see if, as you continue to walk with the Lord, He doesn’t refine the call along with you.

You never know, you may find that walking through that process will eventually feel like a bolt of lightning.


3 thoughts on “Vocation: It’s Not Me vs. God

  1. I’m glad I came upon this post, as I have been thinking about these very things lately! I like your perspective, and I recently read a devotion that addressed the notion of “calling” from a similar perspective. It pointed out that God did not call Isaiah directly, rather, Isaiah overheard God saying “who will go for us” and responded in complete freedom with “Here am I! Send me!” (Is 6:8). I found great freedom in this perspective! That the call of God is not just for an elite few but for all. That the “chosen ones” (Mt 22:14) are not really a select bunch, but are those who are in right relationship with God and who are able to hear the quiet voice of God and respond like Isaiah with a “send me!” God is working everywhere from the local daycare center to Africa — opportunity abounds! If we wait in expectation for God to give us a specific calling, and we notice that others around us have received one, but we haven’t, we set ourselves up for disappointment and a life of aimless wandering, and we risk missing out on opportunities that are just as much ours as anyone else’s. I think God gives us the freedom to embrace our wiring and, in essence, create our own destiny, which will inevitably be a beautiful thing if we walk it out with Him.

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