Yesterday, I posted highlights from the first eight days of this series on calling. Today, we'll look at days 9 - 15, and tomorrow, I hope to have a new post on calling. (Some disappointments of the last week have made me feel particularly snarky. If I don't settle down, you're in for an earful.) I'm wondering if there are questions you find yourself asking on calling? I certainly wouldn't pitch myself as an expert, but feel free to ask questions in the comments. I could attempt some kind of a response in the days to come.
Responsibility and shame, the yin and yang of calling. Responsibilities are the weight God gives us to bear, but we are not meant to bear this weight alone. Indeed, they are always too impossibly heavy for our skeletons of human bone, and they are mean to draw us towards deeper dependence on Christ. But if you’re like me, you add to your pack extra stones of worry, which weigh heavy with the fear of failing. If you’re like me, your responsibilities are too heavily tied to your identity. Meeting them – or failing them – will be the exacting measure of who you are and how much you’re worth.
Fear and uncertainty can be evidence of calling. We often begin with hesitating steps forward; we feel our way in the proverbial dark, unclear about the direction we’re taking, uncertain about the purpose behind the imperative. But what we follow at first is the smallest, faintest perception of a little something toward which God is nudging us. We heed an imperative, that small God movement which leads from behind. We move towards a relationship, a vocational decision, a spiritual practice, a ministry venture.
And it requires enormous risk. We don’t get architectural blueprints or project timelines. We get lamplight for our feet. No more, no less.
Calling must never become ceaseless rhythms of work, subconscious reflexes of self-protection. Hours at a loom – or laptop -, having only mechanical relation to the objects – and people – of my life. Calling is no excuse to lone-ranger it: if anything, calling makes it all the more necessary to find companions for our journey.
One dimension of calling is the easy, downhill glide where effortlessly, you cruise. The wind is at your back. You’re not even pedaling! But there’s another part of calling, which is far more grueling and difficult. They are the hills we have to climb towards whatever height of purpose God is calling us. At the bottom of the hills, we survey the impossibilities. Our body, the hills, the sun beating overhead. There is simply NO way we’re getting to the top.
Thank God for downhill glides because sometimes, that’s the only reason I get on the bike at all. Thank God for uphill climbs because there’s where I’m meant to learn my dependence.
Shouldering all those lives on my little frame had become impossibly heavy, and I needed someone to help me process the exhaustion, the self-doubt, the fear, the anxiety. I was fighting the sin of self-importance, and as a result, laid down the greater portion of my ministry responsibilities.
I want to begin again and begin differently.
I realize now that the work of God continues while I sleep: this is to me, immense relief. Tomorrow, were I to wake up debilitated – or not wake up at all – the world would keep on humming and spinning, whirring and whirling. It's just that big. And I am just that small.
Attending to our heart’s desires isn’t always recommended to us, whether for life or calling. It may also be that our evangelical emphasis on serving and doing simply keeps us too busy for the practices of self-reflection.Whatever the cause, the false heart-mind dichotomies prevail. It’s the continental divide of the modern soul.
But look at the Psalmist’s integration of desire, plans, and petitions. We often do and become what we’ve hoped and planned and prayed. Life – and calling – may well be this three-strand cord of divine will and purposed human participation.
It’s some of the best advice I’ve had. Write for your neighbor, said Calvin Seerveld, when he lectured to artists and writers at our church recently. By this, I think he meant to say: Get over yourself. Get over all that grandstanding and grand planning. Write for your neighbor.
In other words, do something small and do it for love. Neighborliness is the most fundamental of our callings.