(Following is from a column called “Christian’s Queries” that I’m doing for our church newsletter at Portland First Christian Church. My focus is to try and take on questions that many people, but especially young adults, wrestle with. Got a question you want to see me take on? Email me at “christian at fccpdx dot com” and I’ll try to add it to the calendar.
How can you tell when something in your life is a calling from God?
It would be so much easier if God spoke to use through burning bushes or from boiling clouds, or even just sent a text message. But unfortunately, we’re expected to discern what God’s call is on our life, without specific, written-down instructions, custom made for each of us on what to do.
For me, I can usually tell if something is a calling if it meets two criteria; the thought of doing it has to exhilarate and terrify, more or less in equal measure. This isn’t all there is to it, of course, or else the fact that I jumped off of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas for my 40th birthday would qualify as a divine calling. It also has to tap into my existing spiritual gifts, and it needs to meet a need I see in the world.
Theologian Frederick Buechner defines calling as the point of intersection between your deepest gladness and what you see as the world’s greatest need. Yes, the world may need more African missionaries, but if that doesn’t give me joy, I’m probably not called to do it. By the same token, I might get real joy from writing, but if I’m not employing that joy-giving gift to better the world around me, I’m not fulfilling my spiritual call.
We also have to be willing to let go when something just isn’t working. Sometimes our call changes shape as our gifts evolve, or the needs in our midst change. As such, we should be ready to change with it, following the call wherever it leads next.