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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Calling, Day 2: An Appetite for Performance

jenmichel@me.com

We are going to have to settle what it is we owe God. Discussions of “calling” have this way of implying the work that we do for God. And it’s been a long time that people have been asking, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6:29)

Lions smell blood, and humans hunt performance. While for most of us, it’s not going to require a brilliant execution of catch and release on the uneven bars, it does mean we whir with an inner momentum to achieve and accomplish.

We’re driven to secure something (or someone) to prove just how much we are worth.

Being good at something adds wins to our inner ledger. The more wins, the fewer losses, and I somehow feel like the air I breathe is justified.

Only sometimes we get out-touched at the wall.

And even when we do win, we’re never rid of our nagging self-doubt.

“I’m supposed to be a different person now that I’ve won a slam. Everyone says so. No more Image is Everything. . . After two years of calling me a fraud, a choke artist, a rebel without a cause, they lionize me. They declare that I’m a winner, a player of substance, the real deal. They say my victory at Wimbledon forces them to reassess me, to reconsider who I really am.

But I don’t feel that Wimbledon has changed me. I feel, in fact, as if I’ve been let in on a dirty little secret: winning changes nothing. Now that I’ve won a slam, I know something that very few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.”

- Andre Agassi, Open: An Autobiography

We’re going to have to settle what it is we owe God.

Hard work?

Brilliant performance?

Gold medals?

No. No. No.

I don’t imagine that’s the “easy yoke” and “light burden” Jesus has promised will be ours.

Pick up the phone because it’s Jesus on the other line.

And you might be surprised to learn that His first words to you aren’t, “Get busy.”

Calling is not the sum total of the work you owe God.

Because you can’t repay the debt of lifetime, much less an eternity.

Several years ago, I took a personal retreat - packed the car and headed west out of Chicago, blaring Keith Green and looking to get a few things figured out, namely this: work. The question that I always seem to be asking God is, “What should I be doing?” and the answer that He gives, not matter how often He gives it, always surprises me.

I love you.

“I wonder why you care, God. Why do you bother with us at all? All we are is a puff of air; we’re like shadows in a campfire.” Psalm 144:3, 4 (The Message)

We are shadows craving substance, vapors looking for bodies. Our work can be the way we fight and struggle for our materiality, our significance. It is our dogged chase to secure something (or someone) to prove just how much we are worth.

Calling has to be extracted from this impulse. We don’t owe God and can’t repay God. He’ll never be impressed by our spiritual gymnastics, isn’t wowed by our diligence in the pool. Performance would do away with the need for grace.

And everything, it would seem, begins here: with grace. Grace is the unearned love of God based not on my performance but on Christ’s. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Calling doesn’t answer the question “God, what work do I owe you?” Instead, calling is a response to His love, which, if we were to admit it, has caught us by surprise.

Some of us were out-touched at the wall; some of us stood at the podium with the gold medal hanging from our neck, fighting the inner emptiness.

And it was there He celebrated us. Loved us deeply. Told us that winning and losing weren’t rules He played by.

There’s no divine appetite for performance.

“What must we be doing, to be doing the works of God?”

Believe. Only this. Believe in Jesus.

Trust His performance on your behalf. Trust in the work He has finished. Receive the love that bled through His veins and colored red the ground beneath the cross.

And let your calling be your response of deep joy and gratitude.