Discerning God’s calling for our life should precede the choice of our career, job, or place of our service for God. According to Guinness, “the main way to discover calling is along the line of what we are each created and gifted to be. Instead of, ‘You are what you do’, calling says: ‘Do what you are.’” Here are a few questions to consider: What do you enjoy doing? What do you dream about? What would you like to do? What would you do if given the chance? What has God filled your heart with that seems to burst from within? How would a picture of your preferred future of activity look like?
From a Christian understanding of God, the Lord endows all his children with natural talents. If you are alive you are good at one or several things: you are artistic, athletic, an intellectual, hands-on person, good with numbers, a people person, a combination of the above, etc. For those of us who follow Jesus we also believe that God has given us spiritual gifts or abilities given by God to bless other people toward growth and maturity in spiritual areas of their lives. Spiritual gifts are about other people, not us. When we take our talents and gifts and then combine them with a desire to honor our Creator and touch the lives of others, we began to get a glimpse of our calling in life. Guinness states that it isn’t that “God is finding us a place for our gifts but that God has created us and our gifts for a place of his choosing – and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there” (46).
But, you may ask, “How about this stinking job that I’m tied to?” According to Guinness we may experience tension in our pursuit to find work that “perfectly fits our callings.” For example he cites how the Apostle Paul (in the New Testament) at times gave himself up to the work of tentmaking in order to do what he was – work as a minister of the gospel. Guinness writes:
But tentmaking was never the heart of Paul’s calling, it was only a part, as
all of life is. As part of our calling such ‘tentmaking’ at worst is work that frustrates us because it takes time we wish to spend on things more central. But at best it is work that frees us to get to that which is central. By contrast, whatever is the heart of our calling is work that fulfills us because it employs our deepest gifts (50-51).
Guinness is saying that perhaps for a period of time you might need to work or be involved in activity that will financially allow you to make ends meet. It’s not your favorite or desired form of employment, but it pays the bills. But, at least it allows you to progressively move closer to your preferred activity to that form of expression that aligns your time and talents (and gifts) to your soul’s longing for meaning and impact. Or, perhaps you’ve accepted your employment as essential to survival, but yet have found expressions of who you are in an outside activity which give you meaning and a true sense of success.
Finally, here are four simple but profound questions (someone shared these with me) that are helping me at this time of life as I re-evaluate my purpose and mission on earth. First, what is my mission? That is, what is my mission in life? Or, depending on where you are, and your age, what’s my mission for the next stage or second half of my life? What are the causes or organizations that I’m drawn to? What do I sense a burden for? Basically, what do I sense is God’s purpose for me? Write it out. Share it with others. Second, how will my life look like if I complete God’s mission for me? What adjustments will I have to make? What do I need to begin doing now? Third, what are the core values that drive me and the things I do? In other words, what’s important to me? What are things I believe in deeply? Finally, what are some goals for the next stage of my life? That is, what are the specific steps I will take to fulfill my mission and vision?
May I suggest a book for you to read? It’s called Half-Time: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance, by Bob Buford. Its intended audience is for those who have already played the first half of the game (life). It’s for people who are asking some of the tough questions about how to invest and live their lives during the second half of their lives. But, it’s filled with awfully great wisdom and practical questions that anyone in their thirties will benefit from.
Have you answered “the ultimate why” question for your life? Perhaps you didn’t grow up to be a cowboy. But, can you honestly say that you are doing what you are? If not, take some time for yourself, do some reading and reflecting, seek God’s guidance (through prayer) and the input of trusted friends and family members, and begin to live out your mission and vision for your life now.