Stay tuned. This post may change how you spend the next 24 hours.
Too much of our Christian lives are spent obsessing, or even longing for the future. A day that is not today. We waste a lot of todays thinking about what we are going to do tomorrow.
I see this a lot in young adults, naturally, because their future is so often a question mark. The number 1 question I hear from young adults who serve God is…
What is my calling?????!!!!!!111
I dunno how we arrived at this idea in the American church that God is some kind of HR director, and when it’s your lucky day, he’ll say, “Hey Joe I need you [specific location] doing [specific task] for the rest of your life” and boom, we just all expect we’ll do exactly as we are told.
Two problems with this idea:
1. We rarely do what we’re told. (Yes, even you. Yes, even when it’s God telling you to do it.) and
2. In a culture that’s average job tenure is 4.3 years, it’s not usual to have a specific calling that lasts 4.3 or more decades.
Also, I’m pretty sure God’s Kingdom doesn’t have a HR department, but I could be wrong.
The Deconstruction of the Idea of “The Calling”
Let’s just deconstruct this idea now: I’m never convinced a single profession is the essence of what God is asking you to do in your life. There’s a million things that can go wrong with the idea that you’re just going to go do 1 thing -- one expression of Christian life -- for your entire lifetime.
You May Just Run. God had that moment with Jonah. He told the prophet specifically what was to be done. We all think we’re more spiritual than Jonah & we would actually do what God called us to do, but let’s put the pride down for a little bit and maybe assume we’re not any better than Jonah. We might run too.
You May Get Sidelined. Ask Saul when he was setting out on the road to Damascus, he would have told you it’s his calling to be a Pharisee and to suppress this Jesus rebellion thing. Plans change. We make up stuff and call it God. (God is up there saying, “hey, that’s just your desire to be adored. I never said any of that.”) If it’s your job to be a missionary in that foreign city, what happens when the government removes you and puts you back on a plane? You’re not “over.” It’s your calling to be Commissioner of the NFL, but what if they choose someone else? Ok, sure, maybe once, they just made a mistake, but like...what if you’re not chosen for a second time? What if it’s your calling to be a doctor but no medical school will take you?
Do I think God wants you to do exact things at exact times? YES. But I don’t think God appreciates being limited to a job title, and I think he doesn’t like to limit YOU to a job title.
But, Alicia, like, ok, but WHAT IS MY CALLING?
I can answer that question for you. I know what you’re called to do. You can start TODAY. Whatever you were planning to do for the next 24 hours, scratch it. You’re called to do 2 things:
Love God and grow in your relationship with Him.
Love people around you and show them God’s love.
Literally, that’s all. If you do those two things, eventually you’ll wake up one day and realize you’re already knee-deep in your calling.
And if you’re sidelined from your dream career, your dream school, your five year plan...these two action steps can follow you anywhere and everywhere.
The Calling As The Distraction From The Call
So many of us are so anxious that God isn’t giving us a path of tasks to focus on, but God’s up there in heaven asking, “How are you doing on the tasks I already gave you? The task of loving me first, and then the task of loving other people?” You’d be surprised how many people try to ignore the first set of tasks by asking to be distracted with a second set.
Before we’re ever asking for a new task, we should be asking ourselves, did I finish the last task God gave me?
This is why I highly recommend keeping SOME kind of record of your relationship with God. If you’re old school, a notebook & pen by your bed. If you’re electronic, a notes page or blog set to private. (Hey, Squarespace, let’s set up an affiliate code!) I don’t remember anything if I’ve slept since then, so something written is incredibly helpful to write down what God says, what I’m praying for, and if God’s answered it yet.
The Calling As The Distraction From The Other Calling You Forgot/Don’t Like
It’s happened to me often I’ll be praying “God, show me what to do in this next season!” and He’ll just be silent. & Usually his silence for me means “I’ve already told you what to do...go do that & we’ll talk when you’re finished.” I didn’t MEAN to be disobedient. I’ll just forget something God’s called me to do in this season: a person I’m supposed to be intentional about, or a certain area of my life I’m supposed to be focusing on. Reading back through my written notes is helpful before I start asking for something new.
And then there’s the extremely REAL probability (don’t even make me pretend I’m alone in this one) you start praying for your calling because you don’t like where you’re at in this season. For instance, God called you to X University, but it turns out universities are work & you’re sick of Ramen & you hate your roommate & God, please God I need to hear from you about my Real Calling!
...just me? I’m the only one that’s ever done that? Ok. Whatevs. Live in your fantasy world.
Here’s the thing. If you don’t have the follow through to finish what he’s called you to do today….what makes you think he’s gonna give you something new?!?!!?!?! You’ve already proved that you can’t be trusted to follow through on what he asks you to do.
The thing about just focusing on the calling to love God and love people is that it’s so universal. It can be done today, every day. It can be done anywhere you end up. Paul and Silas were able to worship in prison, because they knew how to worship in every season. No matter where, no matter what. Sure, did they hope they got out of prison? Yes. Did the fact they were in it stop them from celebrating God as good. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT.
God’s called you to love the people around you in THIS season. This forces you not just to love the people you want to love, but any person God happens to put in your path. I see this a lot. So many young adults are just itching to hop that plane to Uganda or wherever so they can spread the gospel bc they feel that’s “their calling,” but they’re not willing to spread the gospel to people they know at their own school. They could be at least getting practice in the meantime. Or when you’re called to show love to people at your work, but you kinda hate them all. Or you’re sharing the same house with a difficult family member and it’s easier to hate them, feel justified, and become anxious to move out than it is to love them despite their flaws. (Ouch. This one was too real for several years of my early 20s.) It’s easy to see this flaw in others, but it’s harder to see it in yourself.
Where have you expressed discontent with your current season, either because you don’t feel like you can worship God because of XYZ in your surroundings, or maybe you’ve expressed discontent towards the people in your season?
Let’s fix this today.
Love God Through This Season
Commit to worship in every season, & ask God to help you LEARN how. --He’s not afraid of your completely honest prayer. If you don’t know how to do something, ask him. Ask mentors and other people who seem to have this down.
Love People Through This Season
List 3 people you currently know -- people in your own circle right now -- that do not know Jesus. Of those 3, choose 1 or 2 to be really intentional about showing the love of God to them. List out some practical things that might look like: going to every one of your little brother’s ball games, watching your tone with that coworker who just frustrates you, taking that friend out for coffee & asking the hard questions in life, etc. Take a couple of the ideas you come up with & commit to doing them in the next 2 weeks if possible.
One last thought I’ll leave you with. I heard this a long time ago -- when Paul was in prison in a household -- I can’t remember whose, but it doesn’t matter -- literally he would have been chained to one of the guards all day. Any normal person would say “this sucks, I’m chained to this guy” but Paul had the mindset of “this is awesome, guy is chained TO ME.”