You Can't Miss Your Calling

If you're worried that you haven't found your calling, you're looking in the wrong place.

I like my job. As a radio and podcast producer, I feel like my career nicely balances my desire for creative expression and logical coherence. This puts me in a very small category because most people hate their jobs. And unfortunately, the church hasn't helped.

For decades, Christians have been made to feel guilty for not devoting enough of their lives to God. Weekly gatherings weren't enough; we needed Sunday evening services, Monday Bible studies, Tuesday Bible classes, Wednesday prayer meetings, Thursday cantata rehearsals, Friday church parties, and Saturday gender-restricted breakfast devotionals.

You could be a pretty good Christian by attending all of those church functions. But if you really wanted to please God, you needed to be in his service for a living. Being a plumber was ok if you gave a discount to church members and being an executive wasn't sinful so long as you were tithing most of your paycheck, but true believers should be in full-time ministry.

It didn't pay as well on purpose and it stole a lot of time away from your family, but you could feel safe in the knowledge that your work was devoted to God, not the world. I'm sure those that heeded the call did feel better about themselves (and others), but it came at the expense of those who didn't sense the call. Not only did they feel guilty for having a "secular" job, they questioned their salvation because their desires were clearly out of alignment with God's.

No one says it, but most Christians think it: a true calling from God would be a call to full-time ministry. Working in computer programming or app development couldn't possibly be from God because those are the things of the world and they have no eternal value. Godly desires include leading people to Christ and maturing them in Christ, so unless you plan on being a Silicone Valley missionary, having a job with Google is a selfish desire.

Don't worry, there's a proof text that accompanies this line of thinking. Psalm 37:4 says, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." This can be a very misleading verse so anytime we read it, we have to remind ourselves that having our desires met comes with the condition of delighting in God. And most preachers will say that when we delight in him, our selfish desires will realign with his.

One problem: the verse doesn't say that. Nowhere in the context will you find this common "desire realignment" interpretation. Rather, the context is describing jealousy for the prosperity of the wicked to which David encourages devotion to God and good deeds. It doesn't say that in so doing we will desire these things any less; it just says that our desires will be satisfied.

That's a principle, not a promise, so we shouldn't expect a big house and a high-paying job in return for delighting in God. But we can expect that God will use our desires for his glory. In fact, I think that's all a calling really is.

A calling isn't necessarily a voice from heaven saying, "Hey Bob, your purpose in life is ______" (though I won't say that never happens). When we think this, our theology becomes borderline gnostic because we emphasize our spiritual component over our physical one. God made us both and he made our savior both so that our union with him would be compatible with both. Nothing could be more natural as a hybrid being than heeding our desires because they are just as much a part of us as the Spirit.

Of course, we shouldn't heed all of our desires because not all of them are good. But that doesn't mean that all of our natural desires are evil either. I used to think that if I didn't want to do something or go somewhere, I must be doing what God wanted. I worked a job I didn't like, I went to a school I didn't respect, and I resigned myself to a career I didn't want. So long as it wasn't my desire, the reasoning went, it must be God's.

But if God created us to be body and spirit, then he created us to have desires. This means that a calling is simply a desire of ours that God desires to use. Talents aren't just hobbies to be tithed and consumed by the church any more than jobs are just excuses for evangelism and discipleship. Because if God only cared about saving souls, then every sunset would be etched with the words, "Jesus saves."

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