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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Calling, Day 1: An Introduction to Calling

Yesterday, I referred to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” It deserves a full-scale review: my apologies. But in her article, she exposes some of the half-truths by which many career women persist in their elusive pursuit of “having it all.” One such half-truth is, “It’s possible if you sequence it right.” Slaughter seeks to disprove that feminist sequencing myth, arguing instead that having children either early or late in one’s career has both advantages and disadvantages. It’s not her conclusion that bugs me. (I would tend to agree). It’s the hard-wired ambition and notion of self-sovereignty driving the whole sequencing question that gets under my skin. Maybe because it’s a question I never considered. I had my first baby at 26, and I now have five children. I didn’t try to time anything right. I simply received what I was given when it was given. Clearly, I don’t play by feminist rules, nor have I ever been hard-wired with career ambition.

But I don’t think of ambition as a bad thing necessarily. In fact, now that we’ve entered Olympic season I, like every other American, am awed by the talent and discipline and sheer self-will of our athletes (bearing myself no small amount of self-recrimination). As one New York Times’ article highlights, “I’ll . . . gladly listen to how arduously these elite athletes have trained, day after day, in their quest for perfection. As I hear how doggedly they’ve resisted the urge to quit, I’ll feel just like Ferdinand the Bull from Munro Leaf’s classic children’s book, who preferred to sit quietly under his favorite cork tree and smell the flowers as he watched his peers snort and clash horns and dream of the bullfights in Madrid.”

Ambition drives our top-achievers, and because they achieve, we admire them (albeit Michael Phelps, somewhat begrudgingly). It begs a bigger question about our humanness. Aren’t we all, in some way, hard-wired for purpose and achievement? Don’t we all, consciously or not, want our lives to count for something? For the feminists Slaughter cites in her article, achieving means ascending the ladder of career, securing recognized positions of importance, and achieving financial security. For our Olympic athletes, achieving means bringing home the gold.

Whether it’s money or a medal we’re chasing, we are all in dogged pursuit of something that assures our self-importance and defends our very existence.

Which brings me to the question of life purpose. Christians would use the word, “calling,” to describe their life’s aspirations. It’s a word we mean to capture just what it is we’re after and giving our lives to. It’s a word that dignifies our work. It’s a word that imbues our life with eternal importance. It's a word that signifies our relationship to God and our obedience to Him.

And it’s a word that, if we were honest, we could say we don’t really understand.

Over the next month, I’d like to write on the subject of calling. Why?

1. Because I am easily bored with myself. Giving myself a topic is like baiting a hook and hoping a big fish will swim by.

2. Because I believe there's a lot of confusion around questions of calling. I grant that most of it is my own.

3. Because the last year of writing has been for me a confirmation of calling. I want to tell that story, both to honor the One who has authored it and to encourage you to find and fulfill your calling.

4. Because giving myself a schedule/deadline/structure is a personal method of accountability. Doing it publicly makes it harder to fail. (Oh what I wouldn't do to keep you thinking only well of me. . .)

A few disclaimers with which I feel we must begin. This series will not:

1. Provide a thoroughly researched exploration of the topic of calling. Peeps, this is a blog, not a book.

2. Follow any systematic order. I'm going with a random collection of thoughts and stories. I trust they will eventually bear out at least some of the Biblical truths about calling.

3. Teach a method for finding your calling. This will be, in part, my story and is not meant to prescribe what your story will look like. I celebrate a God who chooses incredibly varied ways to move in our lives.

4. Grant you the courage for doing what God calls you to do. Ferdinand, that part is up to you.

Stay tuned in the month of August for a series of posts about calling entitled, "Answer the Phone."