Six Signs of Calling

 

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When I’m seeking to discern what God is calling me to, there are a few biblically-based signs that tell me really clearly that I’m on the right path.  For anyone who is searching for a job, praying over a move, or considering a significant change, these are worth reviewing.

The places to which we are called usually involve these six factors.

  1. Joy: Calling brings you joy.  Jesus said that he promises us abundant life.  The guy who turned water into wine at a wedding isn’t amassing an army of the miserable. (John 2:1-12, John 10:10)
  2. Service: While calling brings us joy, it’s something that we do to make the world a better place, and specifically to love other people.  This ensures that the joy calling brings us is not merely selfishness, and that we don’t gain the world only to lose our souls. (Mt. 16:24-27)
  3. Gifting: Calling uses the gifts that God has given us.  Some people are made to be teachers, some to be administrators, some to heal and some to help.  Calling employs exactly that mix of tools that we carry in our belts.  It shows us that we were made for a purpose and that we serve a valuable role in the world. (1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12, Eph. 4)
  4. Inadequacy: Despite the fact that we may be gifted for calling, a true calling from God is always bigger than we could handle on our own.  God told Gideon to whittle down his army to the point that it was unwise to enter into battle, and that inadequacy served to prevent Gideon from taking credit when he actually won. (Jdg. 7)
  5. Confirmation: The community around you, the people who know you best, ought to confirm that you’re on the right path.  Our friends sometimes know us better than we know ourselves.  To forge ahead when everyone around us tells us we’re on the wrong path is foolhardy.  It’s exactly like dating.  When friends tell someone that she’s dating the wrong guy, the friends are always right.  She may say, “You just don’t know him like I do.  He told me that when he plays video games all day, he’s only thinking of me.” But the friends can see the situation objectively, and if the friends say, “no,” the friends know what they’re talking about. (Gal. 2:1-3)
  6. Commitment: Nonetheless, calling is that thing you’re going to do no matter what.  Even if no one around you confirmed it, it’s that thing you can’t live without doing.  There is a church denomination that used to ask its pastoral candidates one final question before they could be ordained.  After batteries of tests, exams, theological essays, and psychological interviews, the last question each candidate was asked was, “If we told you we wouldn’t ordain you, what would you do?” There was only one acceptable answer, and every candidate was expected to say the same thing in a sort of litany.  “I’ll preach it anyway,” was the correct response.  Calling is like that.  I’ll do it no matter what. (Gal. 1:11-17)

So those are the six criteria I use to evaluate whether or not I’m on the right path as I pursue my calling.  As you can see, they exist in three pairs, and each of the two members of each pair stand in tension with one another: joy but service, gifts but inadequacy, confirmation but commitment.  It’s in exactly that tension that calling seems to balance.  I’ve encouraged a lot of people to pray over these six things when they make decisions.  I’d encourage you to as well, or share it with a friend who is making big decisions.

 

 

2019, Six Signs of Calling, James W. Miller

I Hate My Job

Recently, I found myself in two different conversations with guys who hated their jobs. One of them has been trying desperately to stay afloat, moving from position to position and working at all hours to try to make ends meet.  The other was fairly successful in an engineering career, but had a nagging longing to do something else and a feeling that life was passing him by.  I noticed that both of them said the same words, “I hate my job,” but there was a significant discrepancy between them. I also knew that I loved my own work, and I wondered at the differences between us.

I think there are four ways to approach work, or perhaps four stages of work through which we mature.

First, we can approach work as a means to an end, that being survival.  Work is there to provide resources for ourselves and those we hold closest.  When that’s the case, work never has intrinsic value. The goal is to have enough, and that goal is almost never met, because the costs of life are always compounding and don’t let us rise to the comfortable nonchalance we anticipate.

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Second, we can approach work as a means to a different end, that being success.  We seek to be productive to the point that we are recognized and compensated. Our goal is to expand and to potentially be the best.  In this case, likewise, the goal is never  achieved. There is always more to accomplish. There is always someone doing better.  Some people stay stuck in this stage, because they never get a vision more compelling than a competition for trophies.

However, third, we might approach work as something sacred, an end in itself.  The value of meaningfully pursuing our calling and treating daily interactions with the people we encounter as divinely appointed intersections transcends the tangible rewards of work.  We may enjoy the fruit of our labor, but not despite the labor; we enjoy the cycle of contribution and participation. I see people in their 50s who are content with their careers make this shift, and the specificity of their chosen field starts to look peripheral to their enjoyment of work.  You kind of suspect this person could be happy in any number of jobs, because it isn’t the job that’s making them happy.

…it’s a shame to hate your job.  The marketplace will tell you a career change is the corrective, but in fact, we have to change how we see career.

 

Ultimately, we want to find our way to the place where work is a secondary expression of compassion.  I think if there is anyone truly happy in the world, it’s this person. It’s the one who wakes up with the aim of loving someone, or many someones, and work is simply a practical outpouring of that love.  The exchange of goods in the marketplace becomes an excuse for being a presence and a voice in the marketplace. Educators, medical professionals, and non-profit managers perhaps cross-over to this most naturally, but it’s available to everyone.

All that to say, it’s a shame to hate your job.  The marketplace will tell you a career change is the corrective, but in fact, we have to change how we see career.