By Lisa Slayton; part three of a series. Reprinted from The Wholeness Journey.
MYTH #2: CLARITY OF CALLING BRINGS EASE AND COMFORT
This series was first presented as a talk to college seniors and young 20-somethings. If the #1 Myth is ‘Pursue your Passion’ and ‘Make an Impact’, then Myth # 2 will unpack further why this is problematic and the implications of this mindset. For these beautiful, bright young people the first two myths were front and center in their responses. I heard over and over again comments such as:
“well, I don’t have my dream job yet, but….”
“number one for me is finding a job that has purpose and where I can make an impact, immediately…”
“well, I am not going to just take any job, I want one that lets me do only the things I am passionate about…”
“once I know my calling, then I will know just what to do next…”
There were more, but you get the idea.
“Figuring Out Calling”
MYTH #2: I have to “figure out” my calling now, quickly and completely. And MYTH 2.1: Once I figure out my calling, life will be so much easier. No more anxiety or worry.
TRUTH #2: CALLING CANNOT BE FIGURED OUT.
Rather, it is revealed over time through experiences and the taking of risks. Calling is understanding who you are in Christ and bringing that to whatever assignment God has given you. I say often that calling, or vocation, transcends location and occupation. Calling is that whom God has uniquely created you to be in every role you have in life. And it is never a straight line. The journey of calling is filled with deep valleys, many cliffs and, if we are blessed, a few mountaintops along the way.
A few years ago, I asked Dr. Steve Garber, author of two very good books – The Fabric of Faithfulness and Visions of Vocation – and therefore perhaps one of the foremost thinkers and teachers on Christian vocation, to define calling and vocation for me. He answered this way:
The word vocation is a rich one, having to address the wholeness of life, the range of relationships and responsibilities. Work, yes, but also families, and neighbors, and citizenship, locally and globally—all of this and more is seen as vocation, that to which I am called as a human being, living my life before the face of God. It is never the same word as occupation, just as calling is never the same word as career. Sometimes, by grace, the words and the realities they represent do overlap, even significantly; sometimes, in the incompleteness of life in a fallen world, there is not much overlap at all.
As we explore our calling over time, by trying some things and taking some risks, we will likely discover that the things we are passionate about change and shift, as we saw in the last post passion is not static. If we adopt a mindset that once we figure it out, we lock and load for life on that one “thing,” then we are severely limiting our ability to grow and learn. There are a few people who know at very young age where they want to focus their energy and work, but for most of us it is a journey of discovery and learning. We try things, we have success and failure, we adjust and over time we choose a path that seems reasonably good.
But even then, we hit inflection points along the way (sometimes called mid-life crises, or quarter-life crises if you are 25) and question our choices and our path as we sense something missing or that we are stuck. Uncovering calling is a much deeper journey into who we are, understanding the core of our identity and then releasing the attachments that are keeping us stuck or have derailed us in some way. Calling is first and foremost about who we are, not what we do. So we must be willing to do the hard work of self-reflection, of digging deep into unearthing our inner vows and deeply held convictions. We need to pull them up and out to examine them and then release those that are no longer serving us well of that are keeping us stuck in unhealthy patterns of dysfunction. And this is hard – very hard.
TRUTH 2.1: CALLING, WHICH IS ALWAYS EMERGING AND REFINING, IS HARD.
Knowing what “it” (calling) is does not guarantee ease or comfort. In fact, it may be just the opposite. As you become clearer on your calling, it requires a kind of obedience and willingness to do very hard things that you could never imagine.
Dan Allender says it this way:
When people use the word calling, they’re usually referring to a to-do list, a job offer, or a wish list for our dream job. The truth about calling is that it has little to do with any of these. In fact, I believe God is most committed to dissolving and re-creating our dreams. God births dreams in us and then allows the desire to move us; and it is in the pursuit of our dreams that we encounter tragedy and meet the deeper desires that only loss and heartache can reveal.
Calling is most often revealed in our suffering and failure.
Which means we must be willing to take risks.
Consider this story.
Eighteen months ago, I decided to pursue physical health and wellness in a very intentional way. I was not sure where to begin, but a Facebook post by an old friend with before and after pictures documenting her weight loss with this caption: “I lost 60 lbs. without breaking a sweat,” sounded like my kind of deal. I reached out and she connected me to her wellness coach. She shared that by “fixing her food” through a customized food plan, she had over many months shed the unwanted weight she had battled with most of her adult life. I went to the website of #BeMarthaFit and was immediately captured by the founder’s process, and by her story. Which started with something like this: “I have tried every diet under the sun…” Sounded very familiar.
I explored the program and within a few weeks I had committed to her 12-week program to get started. Sixteen months later I have lost nearly 70 lbs, reversed pre-type-II diabetes and realized many other benefits, far beyond just physical health. (More on this in a future blog.)
What I want to share with you is a glimpse into the “calling” of Martha Van Camp. Her own journey, told on the website in great detail, is hardly one of joy and ease. Martha has seven children, and a husband who spent many months deployed when the kids were young and she held an executive position with a media company. After trying many diet and weight loss programs with only short term or no success, she decided to go on her own learning journey and soon developed a food plan for herself based on macro-nutrition. Over time, she lost 100 lbs. and began to write food plans for people who had seen her dramatic change and asked her for help. Before you know it, #BeMarthaFit was born and she now has a team of coaches, all of whom are clients who have had their own success, a robust online community of support of her faithful “#BMF” tribe, including a successful client who does nothing but craft healthy “plan” compliant recipes for us all to enjoy.
So here is the question, did Martha know at the age of 21 that this was her “passion”? That helping men and women achieve their wellness and weight goals would be her calling? Of course not.
This emerged out of her own enormous pain and suffering, or as she often says, “I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.” And since launching the business formally a few years ago, has it been a walk in the park? I only know a bit of the journey, but I know it has been hard. It has required real risk and saying yes to assignments that are hard and anxiety producing along the way. And Martha herself is still on the wellness journey right alongside the hundreds of people she helps. She has bad days, she stumbles and goes off plan. And she shares that with all of us for her own accountability and to encourage the rest of us that this is truly a journey towards wholeness.
We can’t sit down with a journal in a couple of hours and figure out our calling. It must be excavated and tested over time. It is often born out of our own pain and loss. And once we gain some degree of clarity, that does not guarantee ease or comfort. Rather, it requires risk and whole-hearted commitment over time.
If this is true, then where does “God’s will” fit into the picture? Myth #3 next time will explore discerning God’s will and our calling- what it is and what it is not.