A calling can be defined as what you were meant to do–your ultimate purpose. The problem is, there are many of us wandering around, wondering what that ultimate purpose is–confused and looking for clarity in finding our calling.
I know what that’s like.
My high school yearbook lists my future profession as “Graphic Designer.” I enrolled in college in a major called “Recreation”
Near the end of my freshman year, my advisor called me into his office. Coach Windemuth broke it to me gently. The university was dropping the recreation major. On the coach’s advice, I changed my major to physical education.
After my sophomore year, I took a year off from my studies to work in youth ministry. After that, I decided to change my major to social work. That’s the major I graduated with.
After graduation, I started a job as an assistant boys dean at a boarding high school. I took the job thinking it was my calling.
About half way through the school year the principal called me into his office. It was the day after I lost my temper with one of my students. The boy had stolen the head dean’s birthday cake while we waited for him to arrive for a surprise party. When I discovered the theft, I called the boy a name I won’t repeat here.
By the end of the school year I realized that being a dormitory dean wasn’t for me. I applied for jobs managing retirement homes, and applied to graduate school. By the time summer arrived I decided to return to school for a master of social work degree.
After earning my master’s, I took a job as a substance abuse counselor. A few years later I went to work at a mental health clinic. After that I took a job in customer service in a health insurance company.
I’ve gone through a few career changes since then.
I’ve often been haunted by the question, “Is this all there is?”
I’ve often been challenged by the question, “Why am I here?”
Have I found my calling?
Some people find a calling that lasts a lifetime. Others have callings that change with the seasons of life. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that I’m part of this latter group.
I’ve also realized that my calling transcends my career and what my job might be at any particular time.
My calling is a way of life.
My calling is a a state of mind that affects how I do whatever work is in front of me. It’s a lifestyle.
Here are 5 steps I’ve used to clarify my calling, and make it my lifestyle:
I’m learning to see God leading in my life. As I look back in my life to the point where I chose to follow Jesus, I see how God has prepared me for what I’m doing today. I trust that God’s also preparing me for work He has lined up for me today tomorrow.
I keep in mind that God often uses difficult experiences in our lives to prepare us for His calling. Trusting in God during these times makes it possible for me to be hopeful, happy and thankful.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV).
Reading the Bible, and putting its words to memory, I learn to recognize God’s voice.
When my wife Tami and I were dating each other before we married we wrote love letters to each other. When I got a letter from Tami, I’d hear her voice in my mind as I read the words on each page. It was almost as if she was in the room talking to me.
God’s Word expressed in the Bible is a reflection of His voice. As I read the words He spoke to the Old Testament prophets I become acquainted with His voice. Reading Jesus’ words recorded in the New Testament, I hear Him speaking to me.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of God (Romans 10:17 NKJV).
I’m learning to keep my mind open to God’s voice. He speaks to me first through the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I also hear God’s voice in nature, music, impressions, my conscience, and the counsel of other believers.
I cultivate an attitude of humility and make room for quiet time. My stubbornness and the noise of life can drown out the quiet voice of God’s Spirit.
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left (Isaiah 30:21 ESV).
Jesus called His followers to let their light shine.
When Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai, God’s glory left a glow on Moses. God’s glory is His character (Exodus 33:18-23; 34:5-7, 29-30).
When Jesus tells us to let our light shine, it’s a call to spend time with God, let His character rub off on us, and to reflect God’s character in our work (Matthew 5:16).
God’s character is revealed by the fruit of the Spirit in our words and actions: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV).
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV).
Researchers are gathering a growing amount of evidence that exercising your top 5 character strengths makes it possible to thrive in our work. Researchers call these top 5 strengths our “signature strengths.”
It’s now known that people who practice their signature strengths at work see their job as a calling, much more than those who don’t practice their signature strengths at work.
My signature strengths are humility, honesty, spirituality, perseverance and forgiveness. I practice these character strengths daily in my work. People who know me well, recognize these as my character strength. When they hear my name, aspects of these strengths often come to mind.
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).
Harzer C & Ruch W. When the job is a calling: The role of applying one’s signature strengths at work. The Journal of Positive Psychology
Vol. 7, No. 5, September 2012, 362–371
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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