Discerning Your Call
My friend Jamie Arpin-Ricci asked his Facebook friends for suggested books and articles that would be helpful to those who are discerning their vocational call. I was surprised by the number of suggestions that were given. Oz Guinness’ book “The Call”, Parker J. Palmer’s book, “Let Your Life Speak”, Eugene Peterson’s book, “Under the Unpredictable Plant”, Henry Blackaby ‘s “Experiencing God”, David Benner’s book “The Gift of Being Yourself”, Bruce Wilkinson’s book “The Dream Giver”, and a half dozen other titles.
What was more interesting to me was that I own almost all of the books that were suggested. While Jamie asked the question as a pastor seeking to help others discern their call, I actually purchased and read all these books during my own season of discernment which has spanned nearly 20 years. Perhaps it took me a little longer than most because I was told that God would never call a woman into vocational ministry. Perhaps my journey was delayed because I grew up un-churched and never imagined that God would call me to do anything. Perhaps it was because the call to befriend homeless folks was so far from my original vision for my future. Or, perhaps I am just a little dense.
While I have read many books on this topic and collected dozens of helpful quotes along the way, this quote by Frederick Buechner remains my all-time favorite:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
I picked it up from someplace years ago but until I stumbled upon Jamie’s Facebook thread, I had never read it in context. Jamie’s friend John Longhurst took the time to share the quote in its entirety and it is so good, I wanted to share it with others.
“Vocation: It comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a man is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest.
By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work that
(a) that you need most to do and
(b) that the world most needs to have done.
If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.
Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Fredrick Buechner from his book Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC.”
After years of listening and discerning, I think my call is to help people find the intersection between their gifts, talents and passions and the needs, dreams and desires of their community in the context of God’s vision and mission in the world.
I began discerning my call in my late 20’s and have been on this journey a long time. In my experience, how I respond in a given season to this call has shifted. I started out as a small group leader in a small church, then moved into leadership development in a larger church, then I launched a community based small group ministry for women, then I started a missional community working with homeless friends which led me into asset based community development outside the church which allowed me to experience the church in a whole new way. I am now helping congregations across metro Richmond find this intersection in their own context.
All the books on my shelf served as lenses to help me see more clearly the subtle shifts that continually call me deeper and deeper into the heart of who God created me to be. I am so thankful for these guides along the way.