In her recently released book, Calling in Context, Susan L. Maros says, “When we seek to identify our callings, we are, at a fundamental level, seeking to understand God’s transformational work in our lives—to recognize who we are created to be and discern the Spirit’s invitation to participate in God’s work in the world.”
As I engage with people who seek to clarify their callings, I find that most people seek affirmation from their community because the trajectory they find themselves on has become uncertain. Often someone will describe feeling lost or that their work is not purposeful. These life milestones frequently signify times when God is giving us opportunities to partner with him in our calling. We can learn to understand these seasons as moments when God invites us to find the work we’re meant to do with him.
Sometimes this means a career shift, such as working toward a promotion. Other times it may mean changing vocations altogether. We may hear God asking us to step out of the workforce or remain in our job and add a volunteer ministry role. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all checklist we can follow to know what the next step on our life journey is, but there are things we can do to clarify our calling and better identify our sweet spot so these seasons of unrest aren’t so disconcerting.
Accept That Your Calling Includes Continual Learning
Susan says, “I often see two major misconceptions about calling: first, that discerning vocation is exclusively about an individual determining their career path, and second that knowing one’s calling is a one-time, trajectory-setting revelation.”
One of the difficult things about adulthood is realizing how little we actually control. As children, it seems that the adults in our lives have control over everything we do, and then when it’s our turn to make decisions, we discover that it was all a big facade. While rules and routines are comforting, they often limit our ability to step into the fullness of how God is calling us to partner with him.
Change and Growth Call for New Opportunities
Once we accept that we will always have more to learn about engaging with our calling, we will be more open to looking for ways to integrate and apply our calling in different areas of our lives. For example, depending on your church denomination, you may not have learned that Spiritual gifts aren’t gender-specific. If you’ve previously heard you are limited in how God can use you because of your gender, your ability to accurately identify how God is leading you may be inhibited.
Calling Shifts with Age and Experience
In 1 Timothy 4:11-16, Paul tells Timothy not to let his age hinder his church leadership. He encourages Timothy to remind the church members not to look down on him and he reminds Timothy that he’s gifted in specific ways that he needs to continue to grow in and develop.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t have anything to contribute as we age. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study revealed that The Average Age of a Successful Startup Founder Is 45. As Peabody award winner Dave Isay says, “Finding your calling — it’s not passive. When people have found their calling, they’ve made tough decisions and sacrifices in order to do the work they were meant to do.”
You Find the Work You’re Meant to Do in Community
When we’re surrounded by people who want to see us succeed they will call our strengths even when we don’t give ourselves enough credit and they will speak honestly about our need for further improvement in the areas where we think too confidently. A great community identifies the gaps we miss and lovingly mentors us as we grow.
The journey of finding the work you’re meant to do is a lifelong partnership with God. Every time you say yes to the next milestone you evolve the way your calling applies in life. Whether that expands the people groups you focus on within a ministry or takes a passion and shifts it from a hobby to a full time job, the point is that each step is one that glorifies God because you are partnering with him as you seek to use your gifts, talents, and passions to best serve the people around you and point them to him.