There’s the kind of calling which is “Calling-with-a-Capital C’. This ‘Capital-C-Calling’ is the kind that happened in the Old Testament, the kind that most of us hanker after because it’s reassuringly supernatural. The formula is thus: an angel shows up (or a clear prophecy is given); there is due protest that they’re not articulate enough (Moses), not important enough (Gideon) or just that they don’t want to do it (Jonah). They then do the job, because even though they’re weak, God equips them.
Then there’s the other understanding of how you find your ‘Capital-C-Calling’ which is seen more in the New Testament. This is serving according to the gifts God has given you (Rom 12:6-8): ‘if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then encourage’, and so on.
At theological college, people seemed to split into two groups, depending on whether they appealed to the Old Testament or New Testament understanding of ‘Calling’. One set of people were keen to emphasise how unsuited they were to Christian ministry, explaining that that’s how they knew that God had called them. (In actual fact, most were very well-suited to Christian ministry). They saw their calling in the same pattern of this Old Testament-style ‘Capital-C-Calling’.
Conversely, there were also some in theological college who were keen to emphasise just how gifted they were and how well-suited they were to ministry. This caused some consternation to the ‘I know I’m called because I’ve fought God about this’ camp, but actually both sides were just using their biblical understanding to justify their sense of calling. And both sides felt a strong calling to ministry, though they expressed it in different ways.
I have never had a voice from the sky or prophetic word, though that would have been nice. However, along the lines of the ‘New Testament understanding’ of calling, I have felt very strongly called to full-time Christian ministry. This is because I saw the need for it, people said I was good at it, I wanted to serve God and perhaps most of all – I LOVED it! I loved studying and teaching the Bible, I loved answering people’s objections to Christianity, I loved listening to people who were going through hard times and offering them Biblical perspectives.
And that was the case for the last decade – I was in the privileged position of getting paid for doing what I loved most; working for a church and co-leading a theological training course, alongside my husband.
But here’s the thing. In the last year or so that has changed. A positive change (my baby being born) and a negative change (major health issues) have resulted in me being almost entirely housebound and having to significantly limit the time I spend talking to people, writing or reading.
For the past year and a half, I have spent the majority of my time on my own, at home, looking after my baby for as much of the day that I am well enough to. Although I dearly love my baby and am profoundly grateful for the chance to be a Mum, I never felt ‘Called’ to be a stay-at-home Mum.
I am an extrovert; I feel energised and alive by being around lots of people – but I now find myself in a situation where I am alone much of the time. I am an active person and love running – but now I find myself unable to walk more than a few paces. I love having dinner parties, and offering hospitality; but now talking for more than a couple of hours exhausts me. I am a planner and strategic thinker; and now can only make plans for a few days or so ahead of time.
I feel like I’m not doing what i’m supposed to be doing. I am a right-handed person. This way of being feels like ‘writing with my left hand’. It does not come naturally. It is hard, it takes much more effort. It is frustrating and wobbly and shaky. It does not look very good. I could do much better with my right hand.
I feel like God’s got it wrong. He should know that this is not the most efficient use of my time. He should know that I could be much more useful to Him and His Kingdom as a healthy person, able to use my gifts for His glory.
Nevertheless, this is what God has called me to do. For today, I am called to get up, change nappies, read fairy tales, do relaxation exercises, lie in bed. I know this, not because I have had an angelic message, and not because it is something I am particularly gifted in, but becuase He is Sovereign and this is the situation He has put me in.
I suspect that this is the case for most people; that the life they lead is not necessarily the life they feel Called to. Wonderfully sometimes we do find ourselves in a position where our careers and family situation fit perfectly with our gifts, passion, personality – but this is quite rare, and God is quite able to work out His purposes without this. This is not God’s ‘Calling-with-a-Capital-C’, but it is still God’s calling. It is not what we think God wants us to do with our lives, but it is what He is actively doing with our lives.
I must not make such an idol of my ‘Calling-with-a-Capital-C’ that I miss my actual calling; what God has asked of me here and now. For now, He has called me to an existence of left-handed writing. I want to be obedient, and I dare to hope to be joyful in it.
Over to you:
- Do you think you have a ‘Calling’? How do you go about discerning such a call?
- To what extent does your life feel like ‘left-handed writing’?