Calling–Where Does the Christianese End?
You all have heard it a thousand times: “I really felt called here,” or “Where is God calling you right now?” or maybe the most painful and cringe worthy: “I think God is calling me to break up with you.”
“Calling” is an oft-thrown around word that is loaded with meaning but infrequently defined. It can be a blanket term thrown out to imply that something besides one’s own interests are at play. Each time I hear someone use the word “calling,” the cynic in me is dying to know what they are hiding…Are they not confident enough to make a decision? Do they think that God despises our desires and passions? Did they really hear God tell them to break up? Why dress up their decision in God-talk?
While I may be sick of this Christianese code-word, I don’t think that it should be thrown out. What needs to happen, rather, is to come to a better understanding of calling.
When I read the Bible I see “calling” used mainly in two ways. Paul says that he was “…called to be an apostle…” and that the Gentiles are “…called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1). Within this short section we have Paul saying that he was called vocationally and that the Gentiles were called to belong to Christ. There is the specific calling and the general calling. This rings true with me. We are all called to love God, love our neighbor, live generously, love those on the margins, and care for what God has given and created. We are told to “be worthy of the calling you have received.” At it’s most basic level, it’s an invitation for all of us to live in relationship with Jesus. There is also a personal calling. For Paul, it was to be an apostle. We are told to make our “calling and election sure,” God made this perfectly clear when he blinded Paul on the road to Damascus and spoke this calling quite starkly. I don’t think Paul had to think too much about that call: the blinding light and voice of Jesus were enough.
So each one of us must live in the freeing calling (or invitation, if you prefer) of relationship with Jesus. We don’t need to continually be worrying about the specifics (Am I called to eat eggs or toast for breakfast?) but focus on pressing into who Jesus calls us to be: loving, compassionate, just, humble, and merciful (just to name a few). I think that as we live into this calling, God will make it clear when we are called to something more specific; and in the meantime, let’s be cautious of our Christianese so that we don’t strip powerful words of their meaning.
Thoughts? How have you experienced a calling in your life?