Seventeen years ago I was tasked with the job of writing a paper on who I believed I was as a person. My goals, my aspirations, and how I got there. It may have been the first time some of my peers were digging below the surface of their life to find themselves, but for me, a girl who had come to college already having filled a copious amount of journals, self-reflection came easily.
What did not come quite so easily was confidence about my calling. The irony is that all the outsiders in my life (anyone not living in my body) could probably have easily have told you (or me if I’d asked–why didn’t I ask??) what my calling was or at least what it was going to involve.
Yet at 18 and 25 and 28 and 31….I stood at critical thresholds without clarity.
In my mid twenties, with my BA and MA in hand, I sat down puzzled on the floor of my roommate’s Chicago condo and puzzled over my destiny, frazzled that I couldn’t hone in on one career. I had bought a giant white poster board and had scrawled every occupation that had ever sparked interest within. If someone had told me they’d thought I’d be good at something, I’d written it down too. The list was loooonnng. How I wish I had a picture of that enormous web!
The pressure I felt at 25 that I had to select a career was mixed in with a deeper pressure still that I needed to figure out my calling. What did I need to do in life? What was it that compelled me with that unwavering pull?
I absolutely could not settle on one thing. I was certain that if I chose one path I’d be dismissing hundreds of others and that I was very likely to choose the wrong path and miss out. How afraid of missing out I was!
Fast forward to marriage, to family, to now. These days I don’t do nearly as much hair pulling when it comes to thinking about my career. Yet I do spend time in the calling room. I have talked at length with friends of mine about discerning what that is. Is it some thing buried deep at the bottom of the sea that we are meant to hunt and discover? Does it require chaos and trial to unveil? Or is it something that if I just got in a room that was quiet enough that I’d hear? Maybe like a persistent soft beacon, glowing there in the center of my inner person…
I wrestle with the idea of calling because I am persuaded that it is one of most important items of reflection that one must do in life. All of the rest of life will flow out of this conviction. Discovering my calling is like discovering the path in the road that you’re meant to take home. There is safety there, maybe not familiarity, but definitely promise. On the path of promise, yes, you fall, you misunderstand, you even veer off, but you come back and get on track again.
Staying the path involves not only reflection of one’s calling, but clarity as to the question I was asked as a college freshman: Who am I? I came out of that paper with one conviction, that I was a child of God and as such I was made in His image and created for purpose. Though I didn’t understand my purpose, I started to figure out my who by connecting it to being made in the image of God. I learned that it was His image that gave me my capacity for imagination, enthusiasm, and languages, my love of words, children, and nature, my joys in connecting others, afternoon walks, and art, and that all of these things were connected and specific to me as an image-bearer.
I’ve always known that the journey through life would help me spell out my calling, but it has been many years (and children!) since I’ve thought more intentionally about it. I’m still not certain about a particular role or career in life despite having found different places to practice these things. I’ve taken pride and purpose in my jobs as a swim coach, an English teacher, a director of language training, and even now as a teacher in a room of toddlers. I love love love being a wife and mom, and I know that is integral to the equation too.
What I recognize today is that understanding calling itself may ask you to step out of yourself for affirmation. I’m ready to include others in the discovery! I’m eager to bring life experience into the puzzle as well and to consider with confidence how who I am translates across the threshold into everything I’m about.
My higher thoughts on this?
Whether I truly know what my calling is right now or not, I do realize something else. I am ready to consider just exactly what this path in life for me is and how that path is meant to intersect with the paths of others.
My other thought is this. If you haven’t had that conversation with someone, why not? Perhaps now is the time to ask others whom you trust, those close to you and perhaps a few who have recently come to know you, what it is that they see in you too. Some of us were born knowing just who we are and what we have been called to do (my husband for example). Others of us are discovering it daily and need to combine self-reflection, others’ reflection and most importantly that conviction from deep within to fully realize the answer to the calling question.
I challenge you to stir up the revelation and conviction of who you are, where you are headed, and what you are about, because without such convictions you might find yourself easy prey for being thrown off course or swayed.
Bonnie Houston–Stay the Path