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!