Freed for Purpose: Discovering Calling
By Scott Lowe
The word calling or call has an elite quality about it. It can have an untouchable force to the word. Calling can draw to mind ministry related ideas and concepts. Or to those people that have finally “found their mission in life.” We say things like “I’m doing this job but searching for my real calling in life.” I believe the problem with this is that we tie calling directly with vocation or that “future” vocation we will one day have.
We are all after our calling in life. I think that this keeps us a bit unsatisfied and stuck. And so, we are held captive by the illusiveness of “calling.”
What if I said that discovering our calling starts now. No matter how satisfied or unsatisfying you life is now. I, for years, thought I understood calling. But it was on my sabbatical in the summer of 2016, on the beach in Costa Rica, that I began to discover a greater understanding of the concept of calling. For years I had the understanding that calling for me was my direct pastoral ministry. It was. But I had never dug deeper. And on this sabbatical, this started happening.
I was on a sabbatical because I was burnt out. I had served in church ministry for years. Actually, for more than 2 decades. My identity was being a teacher, preacher, counselor, comforter, wedding and funeral officiant. I lead staff and leaders to accomplish the work of ministry. This was my “calling.” And all of a sudden I was out of steam. Did my calling change? Was my calling over? Did I need to find a new calling? Even my ordaining body says, if you are not pastoring a church, you are… “without call.” Ugh. I spend my whole life in ministry and if I change professions I am “without call”. I was in crisis.
It was on this trip to Costa Rica that I began to dig deeper into “calling.” In the book 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller, my eyes were opened by 3 interchangeable words that should NOT be interchangeable. Vocation, career and job.
This is how Miller defined each of these seeming interchangeable words.
First, VOCATION. He said that this is the most profound of the three because this word incorporates calling, purpose, mission and destiny. He said “this is the big picture that many people need identify for themselves. Our vocation will leave a legacy.” He went on to say that “the word vocation comes from the Latin vocare, which means “to call.” This is where I was captured. Vocation is about “listening for something calling out to you.” Personally, I think this takes intentionality and patiences. He says “A calling is something you have to listen for, attuning yourself to the message. Vocation then is not so much pursuing a goal as it is listening for a voice. Before I can TELL my life what I want to do with it, I must listen for the voice telling me who I am.” Vocation is about listening! Here is the best part. Everyone has a calling. vocation. mission. and purpose.
Second, CAREER. Career, Miller shows comes from the Latin word “cart”. He defines this as “to run or move at a full speed, rush wildly.” Here is the idea. You can go and dive into a line of work and miss your vocation or calling (that thing that calls out to you.) People at their top of their processions make pivots all the time. They rush into their line of work and found themselves later wondering who they where. I know for me I have had a very satisfying career in direct pastoral ministry but it has taken me years to define my true calling. Here is what was so impactful to me in the way that Miller defines career. When we have defined our calling/ vocation… we can try on careers and constantly reapply our calling. We will get back to that.
But third, JOB. Job is defined as “task, chore or duty.” Your job is directly related to income stream. And this is the struggle. There comes a time where one looks up from their job and thinks “this is not me.” Is this being selfish? Or whinny? Could be but most likely the job does not move or connect this person with their calling. Miller makes the point that “the most common mistake people make in choosing a career is doing something simply because they are good at it.
Steps to understanding Calling, Carreer and Job. Answer these questions:
- What I am passionate about? What gets my attention?
- What are the things that I am good at?
- What do people say I am good at?
- What fears keep me from doing those things?