Do you have a calling? According to my trusty, tattered Random House Dictionary, out of the many meanings for the word call, these two stood out:
- To cry out in a loud voice
- To rouse from sleep
A Calling Cry can be Loud or Soft
You only use a loud voice when a soft voice is first not heard. You use a loud voice to get someone’s attention or when they are far away from you.
You are always called to something. The question is, are you listening? Callings can start as whispers but can then turn into screams for us to finally get our attention.
Your Calling Means Listening to the Right Voices
There are many voices calling us: the voice of our culture telling us what to be do and have, the voices of our family who want us to do a certain thing, our ego that wants status and fame.
Then there is our own still, small voice that knows the truth when we tune in and listen to what we desire in our hearts. And finally, there’s the voice of God who wants us to use our gifts and talents and fulfill our heart’s desires.
Calling and Vocation
The word vocation comes from the Latin vocare. It means the work God has called you to do.
In his book, Wishful Thinking – A Seeker’s ABC, theologian Frederick Buechner offers a beautiful definition of vocation.
“By and large a good rule for finding out your calling is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to do is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Calling Out of Sleep
Are you sleepwalking through life? Do you get up, go to work to pay the bills, come home exhausted, numb out through food, alcohol, watching programs, fall to sleep, and get up to repeat the process all over again? (That’s what I used to do for decades.)
Or are you living with deep gladness and meeting the world’s deep hunger? I hope so.
Unfortunately, it usually takes a crisis of some sort to shock us awake. It can be a typical mid-life crisis asking the question, is this all there is? It can be a layoff, a new supervisor that comes in that makes your life hell, or an unforeseen diagnosis.
While these wake-up calls can be painful in the moment, that pain can lead you to greater purpose and fulfillment.
Your Calling is Never too Late
My calling to write came out of a mid-life crisis. I went through a painful divorce at the age of 49. Going to counselling for healing, my therapist explained that some people never wake up. Some wake up on their death beds and realize what they could have done differently in their lives. They never took inventory along the way.
One of my favorite television programs is CBS Sunday Morning. Robert and I love the stories. It’s all very positive. There is always an author, artist, or musician being interviewed.
For years I would watch with envy at these successful people in the arts. But I didn’t need to feel envy.
The truth is, these people were following their calling. They are doing the work that brings them deep gladness. The world is hungering for it.
I no longer watch with envy. I am called to write. Finally, I’m doing the work. In the last two years I’ve published two books and am working on others.
You Will have Many Callings
Another reason for my envy of the artists on CBS Sunday Morning was that the overwhelming majority of them knew at an early age what they wanted to do. It was always one thing: play the piano, sing, paint, etc.
I was hung up on the one thing. Growing up I wanted to be an artist. Then I abandoned that dream because I didn’t think I was good enough. I was holding onto perfection.
But I’m encouraged when I think of athletes, particularly Olympic athletes. They rigorously train for years for an event that may last only a few minutes. Most of the athletes are young. Are they done after they compete in the Olympics? Of course not. They will go on to follow many callings in their lives.
Your Life is Always Calling You
Steve Jobs describes these many callings well in his commencement speech at Stanford University. He talked about connecting the dots.
He had dropped out of classes in college and dropped in on a calligraphy class. There was no reason for him to sit in that class other than being called to it.
Ten years later he used what he learned in that class to develop the fonts for the Mac computer.
How is Life Calling You?
Pay attention to your heart’s desires. Listen to the still, small voice inside of you when it speaks.
Make time to unplug from the noise and voices of the world that will drown out your own voice.
Is there an activity you loved as a child and haven’t done anymore? I hadn’t drawn in decades and saw that the local community college was offering a cartoon class and signed up.
On the first day, our instructor said, “You are here to express yourself and to discover what is inside of you.” I knew I was called to be in this class!
Just like Steve Jobs took his calligraphy class and used fonts for the Mac, I used the cartoons I created from that class ten years ago and put them in my second book: The Freedom to Eat – 10 Secrets for Lasting Weight Loss and Inner Peace. (You can also read the first two chapters for free.)
Take time to reflect where life has taken you. It is only by looking back that you can see the path that has led to the present moment “connecting the dots.”
You do have a calling. All you need to do is listen and take small action steps in the direction of the call.
Do you have a calling story to share or a question? Share it in the comment section below. (You’ll need to scroll down quite a bit.)