“What is your calling?”
This question, along with several variations, echoes throughout Christian circles. As followers of Christ our calling in this world is of great importance, but what do we do when God doesn’t call us?
Personally speaking, I’ve been waiting for a booming voice from heaven for many years. People around me have seemed to effortlessly receive their calling and launch into it without issue. I’ve known several Christians who have understood their personal calling from a young age and have rarely veered the course.
However, I have yet to receive “the call.” God hasn’t called me to anything in particular. I have many desires, dreams, and ideas. I have specific gifting. I have skills. I’ve entered different workplaces, ministry settings, and I’ve also been barren in ministry. In each season, my deepest desire has remained the same: I long to love God and to love others as I love myself. When I was a new believer, the words of Christ in Mark 12:30-31, jumped off the pages of scripture and landed deeply in my heart. Love God. Love your neighbor. There is no greater commandment than these. After meditating on that for quite some time, I’ve allowed it to guide my heart as I’ve ebbed and flowed through vocation, ministry, and joblessness.
Now, as a stay-at-home mom of two young children, my understanding of calling has shifted and transformed. I have worked through difficult questions surrounding calling and have started to see that my own expectations of being given one specific calling were misinformed by the culture around me. I now see how the word calling is often misunderstood and has different meanings to different Christians. I now know that it all starts with a biblical understanding of our calling to know Christ.
Biblical examples of specific vocational callings, like those given to Moses, Samuel, David, and Paul, can lead us to expect this in our own lives. However, in most biblical references, the word calling is not referring to specific vocations; it’s talking about being called to Christ (Romans 1:6, Romans 8:28) and to live holy lives as God’s people (1 Thessalonians 4:7). Our greatest calling is first and foremost our intimate and personal relationship to Christ. It is out of this reconciliation to Christ that we can understand our truest identities and our unique contribution to the Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:17-20), including our work.
It seems likely that for many Christians, vocation, and what we do on a daily basis, is less about a dramatic call and more about a wise choice—which involves guidance from God, our community, and our truest selves, as well as evaluating our skills, gifts, and desires.
Here’s an example of this from my own life: Last summer, God merged two deep longings in my heart to produce a new adventure that I didn’t expect. The first, a longing to help fight the injustices of human trafficking, seemed like a noble calling. The other, a deep desire to learn how to restore furniture, seemed good, but not noble enough to give my time to.
Then, a simple whisper and nudge from the Holy Spirit changed how I saw both. God showed me that I could learn to restore furniture and use the profit to help fight human trafficking—restoring furniture to restore lives. What a fun idea! I will soon be selling my first round of pieces and will use a portion of the proceeds to combat human trafficking.
Today, instead of concerning myself with a grand, lifelong vocational calling, I desire to answer this question: “How am I utilizing the gifts, resources, and desires God has given me to impact the Kingdom and meet the needs of those around me?” Wherever we end up, our first priority is our calling to Christ and partnership with his redemptive work, with his creation, and with his plan to reconcile the world.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
1. Spend time reflecting on your personal definition of calling. What has influenced the way you perceive calling? Is there any part of your perception that needs to shift?
2. How are you utilizing the gifts, resources, and desires God has given you to impact the Kingdom and meet the needs of those around you?
3. Has there been a time in your life when vocational calling was absent? If so, what was produced in your spiritual life during that season? How did God use that time to develop you?
4. If you are currently in a season of feeling like God "hasn't" called you, spend time asking God what he is doing in your spiritual life that you should be aware of.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Johanna Lohrmann and her husband, Simeon, live in Phoenix, AZ with their two young children. The Lohrmanns joined ChurchNEXT in 2014, with a vision to see a sweeping movement of the gospel through the music community with the help of their ministry RYFO. For more information, please check out RYFO.org.