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







Embrace Our Calling

You may have known someone who says, “This is my calling”, usually referring to his/her work or role in life. What do they mean by that?

We are all meaning-seeking creatures. We have this innate desire to make sense of what our lives are for. When we engage in any activity, we want to derive some form of joy or satisfaction from it.

When we use the word, “calling”, it implies that the particular role or activity calls out to us. Calling moves us to action because it provides us with purpose.

So, What is ‘Calling’?

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.

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.

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

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 calling is about. 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.

  • 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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4 Responses

  1. 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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