“I have a calling” – What Does it Mean?

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28/01/2023

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28/01/2023

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Embrace Our Calling

Have you ever felt a sense of purpose or direction in your life that you couldn’t quite explain? Some people refer to this feeling as a “calling.” It’s a sense that there is something you were meant to do or become, a mission or a destiny that is unique to you. But what does it really mean to have a calling? In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of a calling and discuss what it means to fulfill your own unique purpose in life.

We All Search for A Purpose in Life

As humans, we all have a deep desire for meaning and fulfillment in life. We all want to know that our lives have significance and that we are making a difference in the world. This desire for purpose and meaning is often what drives us to search for our place in the world.

The author Os Guinness wrote, “Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfill a purpose bigger than ourselves. Only such a larger purpose can inspire us to heights we know we could never reach on our own. For each of us the real purpose is personal and passionate: to know what we are here to do, and why.”

Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfill a purpose bigger than ourselves. Only such a larger purpose can inspire us to heights we know we could never reach on our own. For each of us the real purpose is personal and passionate: to know what we are here to do, and why.

Os Guinness

Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfill a purpose bigger than ourselves. Only such a larger purpose can inspire us to heights we know we could never reach on our own. For each of us the real purpose is personal and passionate: to know what we are here to do, and why.

Os Guinness

Calling is More Than Just a Job or Career

Many people often search for their purpose through different means such as career, relationships, and hobbies. For example, some may think that their purpose in life is to have a successful career, while others may think that their purpose is to find true love and start a family. Still, others may think that their purpose is to pursue a hobby or passion, such as writing, painting, or traveling.

However, it’s important to note that while these things, such as career, relationships, and hobbies, can bring fulfillment and happiness, they do not necessarily provide a sense of purpose or meaning in life. They can be a part of our purpose and meaning in life, but they are not the only means by which we can find our purpose.

A calling is a deeper sense of purpose that encompasses all aspects of life. It’s not just about what you do to make a living, but rather it is about who you are and what you’re meant to do in this world.

Our Primary Calling is to God

The Bible tells us that God has called us into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9; Romans 1:6). Our primary calling is to be in a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. That is our most important calling!

When we follow our calling, we are in fact responding to God who is calling out to us.

Before being called to something, we are called to Someone. Before we are called to do, we are called to be. Our primary calling is to be in a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that God has called us into fellowship with his Son. God created us and knows our strengths, weaknesses, dreams, and fears. In spite of our imperfections, God loves us perfectly and completely. He wants us close to him. He calls us to belong to him.

–From Chapter 1 of Kevin and Kay Brennfleck, Live Your Calling, “In Search of a Calling”

As Christians, we believe that our primary calling is to God and our secondary calling is our life’s work. Therefore, a calling is not just about what we do for a living, but it’s about how we live our lives in relation to God.

Our Secondary Calling is Our Life’s Work

While our primary calling is to God, our secondary calling is the specific work we do to fulfill that primary calling. This secondary calling is often referred to as our “life’s work” and it is the specific way in which we choose to fulfill our purpose in life.

Our secondary calling could be a job or career, but it doesn’t have to be. It could also be a volunteer opportunity, a ministry, a hobby or any other pursuit that aligns with our purpose in life. The key is that it should be something that helps us fulfill our primary calling to God.

For example, a young adult may feel a calling to work in the healthcare field, and they may choose to become a nurse or a doctor. However, that same individual may also feel a calling to volunteer at a homeless shelter or to start a ministry to provide healthcare to underprivileged communities. Both of these pursuits align with their primary calling to serve and care for others, but one is a paid job, the other is a volunteer opportunity.

We should also remember that there is not only one secondary calling in life. Our secondary calling can change over time, and different stages of life may require different ways of fulfilling our primary calling.

It’s important to remember that as Christians, our secondary calling is not just about finding a job or career that pays the bills, but it’s about finding something that aligns with our purpose in life, and fulfilling our primary calling to God in the process.

Much of what I write about here in this blog has to do with secondary calling, or what we will call “vocational calling”.

I chose the word “vocational” intentionally. We are used to refer to our job as vocation. “Vocation” comes from the Latin vocare (to call) and means the work a man is called to by God.

So, to refer to our secondary calling as our vocational calling is to bring out the meaning of our life’s work more clearly.

Responding to the Vocational Calling in Our Life

If you think about it, when we respond to a call, it is the caller who initiated the conversation. So, when we seek and find our calling, it is the calling itself that seeks and finds us.

If that sounds paradoxical to you, it is!

Think about your current job. For me, I’m a teacher and my calling is to teach. Did I choose the job, or did the job choose me?
I may say I choose the job because I enjoy instructing people. Or that I want to help young people find their purpose in life.

But what first gave me that desire? My life experiences? Observing good teachers who draw out the best in their students (or bad ones who failed)?

What gave me the ability to instruct others? I was trained in an institute of education. But that was because I was given opportunities through my parents, society, and education.

Experiences, abilities, and opportunities are things that happened to me. They are a chain of events that occurred in my life to bring me to where I am today.

Our experiences, abilities and opportunities in life are part of how God leads us to our calling.

What I am trying to say is this: our abilities and desires are shaped by forces beyond our control. Many have attributed this higher power to fate, or destiny, or to the universe. As a Christian, I believe that all events are ordered by a personal God, who is in control of all things. Therefore, God is the ultimate Caller. When we respond to our calling, we are responding to God.

Frederick Buechner wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.This is an excellent starting point for us to think about our calling.

Your Deep Gladness

There are certain skills, talents and gifts that God gives to us, so that we can use them to benefit others and bring honor to Him. Our skill sets are unique and different from others. When we discover the skills we love using, that is where we find our ‘deep gladness’.

These skills, abilities and gifts are unique signatures written into our DNA. They offer a clue to what our life purpose or vocational calling might be. While we might be aware of some of these gifts, there are other abilities or interests that are yet to be discovered.

That is why interacting with people, young and old (but especially the young!), fascinates me so much. Because there is so much potential in each of us that we have yet to tap on! Every person is made in the image of God and is worthy of discovering all the wonderful plans that God has in mind for him or her.

But knowing what brings us deep gladness is only half the picture, and if we only live for that, it is a pretty narcissistic existence. Which is why we come to the second part of the equation in Buechner’s quote: “the world’s deep hunger’.

The World’s Deep Hunger

The second part of the equation is the “deep hunger” of the world. There is no calling without the sensing of some real need in the world outside of us.

To return to my example: I became a teacher because I saw the need out there. The students need good teachers. They need good teaching to gain the skills for life. I respond to the needs I see. I bring my skill set and my personality to serve these needs. At this point in my life, meeting the needs of these students and empowering other teachers to do the same is part of my personal mission.

It All Comes Together

Our vocational calling is the intersection of doing what we are good at, what we love doing, and what the world needs from us.

In a simple sense, that is what our vocational calling is about. Our vocational calling is the intersection of doing what we are good at, what we love doing, and what the world needs from us. Some would include what we are paid to do, but that is narrowing it to paid employment. Calling is bigger than our job. Many of us are called to work without pay – just ask the full-time homemakers! This does not make it any less our calling.

One way to think about the relationship between our calling and our job is that our job is a vehicle for us to express our sense of calling. When what we do at work is aligned with our calling or purpose, we feel a sense of coherence in life. We experience our work as meaningful in itself. This enhances our sense of fulfillment and happiness overall.

Conclusion

In conclusion, having a calling is a sense that there is something you were meant to do or become, a mission or a destiny that is unique to you. As Christians, our primary calling is to God and our secondary calling is the specific work we do to fulfill that primary calling. It’s important to understand that a calling is not limited to a specific job or career, but it’s a deeper sense of purpose that encompasses all aspects of life. It’s not just about what we do to make a living, but rather it’s about who we are and what we’re meant to do in this world.

We hope that this post has helped you to better understand the concept of a calling and how it relates to your purpose in life. Remember, discernment, pursuit and fulfillment of our calling is an ongoing process, it may change over time, and different stages of life may require different ways of fulfilling our primary calling.

We hope that the resources here can help you in your journey of fulfilling your calling.

  • To dive deeper into the meaning of calling, check out this post where I draw upon some insights from research in the psychology of vocation.
  • Is ‘calling’ the same thing as passion? Read this post to find out!
  • Many of you may be wondering how you may discover your calling. There are several resources out there, and here I share my take on the subject.

How do you understand “calling”? Do you have a different take on it?

Feel free to leave a comment below!

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7 Responses

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  2. I’d like to read more of how you share God to your children. How do we teach them the truths in a way they can comprehend.

    and yay to new blog! 🎉

    1. Thanks Shir! That will take a new blog post, and your comment prodded me to think of doing a new mini-series on ‘Called to Parenting’ in the future.

      Even so, I’m really not an expert on parenting. I’ve stumbled and fumbled much along the way, so maybe my mistakes are more valuable than my successes!

      Off my mind, I could think of 3 things for now:

      1. Nothing to hide

      Our kids are 12 and 9. What I can share at this point is that, we have reached the stage where we can talk with them plainly about God, and how we relate to Him. My kids saw me when I am at my weakest – after an emotional meltdown, for example. Sometimes it can be a simple blunder. When that happens (ok, after that happened), I’ll sit down with them and admit, “Daddy was wrong to lose my temper like that just now. I realized I’ve hurt you, and I’ve also sinned against God. I’m going to ask God and you for forgiveness, and I know He will restore me (explain). Can you pray with daddy?”

      The last thing I want was to put up an example of perfection, because I know that is not true. I make mistakes all the time. I want my kids to know that when they make mistakes, they can face it and turn to God. Nothing to hide.

      2. Nothing to prove

      Our kids live in a society where they have to prove themselves worthy to get what they want. Deserving of a good reward for good results in exams. Deserving of goodies for doing something good. Deserving of screen time for finishing their homework. I won’t want them to have an idea that God is anything like that. We don’t “deserve” anything from God, if anything we deserve His wrath. No, everything He deems good for us He gives us freely. So when we extend forgiveness to them, or when we award them with something good in itself, we’ll make sure to tell them, “This is because God has loved us freely, so we want to love you in the same way. You don’t have to prove yourselves to be deserving of good from us. We love you for who you are.”

      3. Nothing to lose
      This is probably the hardest, but we try to inculcate this sense that it is worthwhile to lose everything for God because He is worth it, because we lose nothing in the end if we gain Him. My wife is good at this. She would play audiobooks of autobiographies of heroes and heroines of faith to them, every night, almost without fail. They grow up with stories of Amy Carmichael, George Muller, Samuel Morris and David Livingstone, and many others that I’ve lost track of, and learned about how their faith led them to make huge sacrifices in their lives for God. Doing so, we hope they can learn how when they live for God, they really have nothing to lose.

      That’s all I can think of for now. Maybe this can really become a mini-series after all!

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