Digging Deeper into Calling
“Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfill a purpose bigger than ourselves”
If there has been a cure for a misguided and myopic view of calling and vocation it has been this … teaching a class dedicated to this very topic over and over again to undergrad students. Not only that, but to students who may or may not even identify with Christ (many don’t). On top of that, but of the dozens upon dozens of students I’ve taught none of them are preparing for a life of professional ministry. They all have aspirations to be accountants, counselors, therapists, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and so much more. With that background established, let’s jump into this conversation.
I usually start off with questions like … Who are you? Why are you here? What’s your purpose on this planet? Why are you here? What are you called or wired to do or be? Most of us are desperate to want to “get it right” when it comes to our lives and living them “rightly.” But how do when know when we have or when and where we’re running amuck? What does it even mean to live life “rightly?”
I lean on Os Guinness’ book The Call when he points out the three factors which have converged to fuel a search for significance without precedent in human history:
First, the search for the purpose of life is one of the deepest issues of our experiences as human beings.
Second, the expectation that we can all live purposeful lives has been given a gigantic boost by modern society’s offer of the maximum opportunity for choice and change in all we do.
Third, fulfillment of the search for purpose is thwarted by a stunning fact: Out of more than a score of great civilizations in human history, modern Western civilization is the very first to have no agree-on answer to the question of the purpose of life. Thus more ignorance, confusion––and longing––surround this topic now than almost any time in history. he trouble is that, as modern people, we have too much to live with and too little to live for.
By this point the conversation has shifted from “what I want to do” to more along the lines of “who do I want to be?” You see, regardless of our career trajectory we all have an innate desire to live a life of meaning and significance. The challenge though is that (a) as a society we have no agreed upon answer to the meaning of life. That’s why we often to default to fame, money, and possessions. (b) We rarely think or talk in terms of calling or vocation outside of ministry circles. But at this point the students are all ears … they want to know more.
John Friedmann addresses this in his book Insurgencies: Essays in Planning Theory when he notes, “In closing, then, allow me to tell you, the reader, why the idea of planning as a vocation [or calling] still appeals to me, and why despite many setbacks, errors, and disenchantments, I nevertheless believe that planning as a field of professional study and practice is as valid a vocation as any other on the horizon.” When I first read that as a PhD urban planning student I did a double-take. What, what? Vocation? Urban planning as a calling or vocation? I thought only pastors and missionaries are called or have a calling?
These are powerful questions to wrestles with, particularly in an undergrad setting as students prepare for a life in the workforce. But I don’t think we can nor should stop thinking or talking about it and then “move on.” Who ever moves on? My hunch is you’re reading this now because you’re curious. Maybe you’re at a fork in the road. You’ve pursued “professional ministry” for a while and sense a leading or calling into something new … non-profit work? Business start-up? Church planting? It’s kind of terrifying isn’t it? The assumption probably for many of us was that once we set out on a career trajectory that it was settled and we simply continue on in that direction until retirement. But life isn’t so neat and tidy is it?
So what is prompting you now to wrestle? A need that you’ve uncovered? A brokenness you can’t turn your back on? A painful firing? Or maybe a general sense of “I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.” Regardless of why or how you entered into this conversation the reality is you are here. If this is a waiting room, then you’ve looked up from reading the generic outdated coffee table magazine to notice that there are many others here just like you. You’re not alone. So maybe we need to pause and ask those questions again … Who are you? Why are you here? What’s your purpose on this planet? Why are you here? What are you called or wired to do or be? In other words, how can you give your life away to something meaningful?
If you want someone to chat with then hit us up. We’d love to talk. No strings attached.
Guinness, The Call, 3.
Friedmann, Insurgencies, 11.