For decades I was confused about calling.
After all, our calling, vocation or mission in life is often tied tightly to doing something.
In fact, when you ask someone about calling or personal mission, they will likely list off a host of things they are doing.
Ruth Haley Barton notes our rampant confusion regarding calling when she says,
“We set young leaders up for a fall if we encourage them to envision what they can do before they consider the kind of person they should be.” —Ruth Haley Barton
In the church, where we should know better, this misapprehension of calling takes on cosmic proportions. Primarily because we spiritualize everything and thereby make it far more urgent than callings in other areas of life.
Here, for example, is a personal vision statement I lived by as recently as ten years ago.
Biz’s Vision (ca. 2008)
“To reach the world through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ;
Leaving no stone unturned and no sin unchecked;
Remain faithful to this call until the day that I die!”
“Leave no stone unturned and no sin unchecked.”
I don’t even know what that means today.
I also believe that vision and calling are both action-oriented. Therefore, words like reach, preach, check, etc. are not unimportant.
Even now, as I reflect on this ‘calling,’ I see that it comes from both deep and sincere desires.
Yet, for better or worse, I lived under the misconception that calling was about something I do, or was doing.
Our calling certainly includes what we do. It is, however, never limited to what we are doing.
This specific calling is essentially action-saturated from beginning to end. It doesn’t even speak to personhood; nor does it reflect on the type of character or internal strength required to pursue it!
The central reality of calling, that who we are is more important than what we do, is missing entirely.
Who I Am Frames What I Do
In the last eight or nine posts, I’ve suggested that discovering purpose and calling – both personally and congregationally – is vital. It’s actually the first Pillar I suggest as something that we do on a regular basis if we hope to have a successful and effective ministry in today’s context.
Yet, I am going to also offer a rhythm – a way of going about our calling – that will cause us to dig deeper into the core of what it means to be called. When we discover what it means, we can then ask why it matters.
Finally, we will reflect on where we might expect our calling to carry us if we begin in the right place.
It’s a high calling, to be sure.
A few years ago I ran across an article by Dallas Willard that shed’s brilliant light on the notion of calling and our inner formation. In his opening remarks, he states,
“To fulfill the high calling which God has placed upon us in creating us and redeeming us, we must have the right inner substance or character. We must come to grips with who we really are, inside and out. For we will do what we are. So we will need to become the kind of people who routinely and easily walk in the goodness and power of Jesus our Master. For this, a process of “spiritual formation”—really, transformation—is required.”†
We will do what we are.
So, before we do, we certainly better know who we are.
The specific rhythm I rely on, as I continually seek to know who I am in Christ, is the rhythm of Contemplation.
In the next few posts, I am going to suggest that there is no way to be secure in our calling, much less comprehend the depths of our calling if we are not engaged in what I call “The Contemplative Life.”
I will do so by examining a host of biblical passages and characters related to calling.
As we explore the process of being called we may rediscover the contemplative life the ancients lived so well. This contemplative way of living provided abundant space for them to reflect on their calling.
You may be surprised to find that the contemplative/reflective way of life took place within the context of the world in which they were called.
It should, however, not be a surprise to discover that this contemplative way of life was genuinely anchored to an intimate and ongoing relationship with the Father.
It is, after all, the Father who initiated the call then and initiates the call today!
Disrupting to Renew!