Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Calling obsessions....

People collect all sorts of things, from your standard, run-of-the-mill stamp or coin collection, to things a little more odd: like belly-button lint and celebrity hair (yes, people actually collect hair that once was connected to the scalps of famous people.)  If you're like me and have walked into an office lined with figurines from a much-loved TV series, then you know that sometimes our little collections can turn into obsessions.  Most of us have had at least one, and as long as you're not the collector who tackles famous people on their morning jog to make off with a hunk of hair, you're probably not hurting anyone with it.

However, there is an obsession we have in the Christian world that I think is causing harm, and we don't even recognize it.  That obsession... is our fixation on a concept known as "your calling."  Don't get me wrong, calling is an extremely important concept that is a part of the life of every believer, but it is my belief we have taken something that was supposed to be a blessing in our lives, as well as a means of blessing other people, and have made it into a burden on the necks of believers.

Before I explain my point, I want to highlight that I am working from a Lutheran (LCMS) perspective of calling, where "calling" equates to "vocation."  Vocation, from this perspective, is not necessarily what we could call a "career" or "job," though it does include those things.  More generally, vocation is  whatever legitimate labor we carry out in our day-to-day life, with a "legitimate labor" being any action we carry out that does not go against the life God has called us to in the Bible.

Already, this definition is touching on the point I'm trying to make.  We have convinced ourselves that "calling" implies the one thing in our lives that we were made to do, and until we are doing that one thing, we are in a sort of holding pattern where we are getting prepped to do that thing.  This leads us to thinking that, unless we're doing that "one thing," we are not engaged in things that truly matter or that we are not where we "need to be" at the moment.  Yet what does scripture actually say?  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31(NIV):

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

Wait a minute...does that mean... that my eating and drinking are to God's glory?!  How can this be?!  As a Christian, when you eat a steak or carrot, who is benefiting?  Well, you, for one.  This food is being used to sustain the life of a person that scripture calls "the light of the world" (Matthew 4:14).  This food is allowing you to continue living, to go out into the world and shine the light of Christ into a world "in darkness" (John 12:25).  What is more, by eating, you are blessing everyone that worked to provide that food.  You bless the check-out lady at the grocery store, the stocker who put that food out on the shelves or in the cooler for you to buy, you're blessing the guy who manages the stocker and the check-out lady, you're blessing the guy who owns the grocery store, you're blessing the trucking company that shipped the food to the store, the trucker who drove the truck, the gas station attendant who the trucker paid to get the gas that runs the truck, the guy who owns the gas station, the guys who fix and maintain the truck, the guys who make the parts for the truck, the guys who ship the parts to the guys that fix and maintain the truck, the guys who ship the oil, the worker on the oil platform, the owner of the oil platform, the company that makes the parts for the oil platform, the engineers who designed the oil platform, the guys who build the oil platforms, the farmer who raised the cow or carrot you ate, the farmer who raised the feed the cow ate, the company that made the fertilizer for the carrot, the water company that the farmer buys water from to water his crops or cows, the company that makes the cars that all these people use to get to work or at work, all the way down to the kids and wives and husbands who wear clothes, buy their food, go to school, and have electricity because all the way down the line, a little Christian somewhere in the world bought a steak at the local grocer.  With one little action, as a Christian, you blessed thousands of people you will never know, just by living out the life God has given you.  Sure, you weren't preaching at the pulpit on Sunday morning or teaching kids arithmetic or shaping policy on capitol hill... but you were changing people's lives none-the-less.  Wherever you are, "whatever you do," you are living out "calling."

Now let's get on to the heart of the issue: the calling, if we must put it that way.  What about your career field?  What about that one thing you are trying to figure out you are supposed to do, as though God has this one thing for you to do, and if you don't find it your life was wasted.  One of the verses I hear cited a lot in support of this view is Jeremiah 29:11(NIV):

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

This a beautiful passage, one that has given me hope in many very unpleasant situations, but I don't necessarily think we have understood this passage rightly when we have cited it to prove God has a specific plan for our lives in regards to that ONE career choice we need to make.  Keep in mind this was written in the Book of Jeremiah, an Old Testament book, and a prophetic book none-the-less.  This was written in a time when Israel was about to be conquered and enslaved by Babylon, and when Israel would be looking forward to a promised Messiah who would deliver them.  What I'm getting at is: Christ had not come yet, and this book was reminding people of the promise of His coming.  Wasn't Jesus God's ultimate "plan" for humanity's good?  Doesn't he allow for prosperity, doesn't He give us hope and a future we would otherwise not have?  In Christ, we have hope in the knowledge that God loves us and has done everything to bring us back into peace with Him.  We know that life does not end in death, but that we have eternal life with God.  We know that one day, all suffering and hardship will cease when God perfects all things.  These things ARE our promised hope and future.  Jesus was and is God's plan for us.

Does this mean I think God has no calling for us?  By no means!  But I think scripture more clearly supports that whatever God-pleasing thing we are doing right now is our calling.  We aren't waiting for some future thing to do with ourselves, we are living out calling every day.  

Now, legitimately, I won't say that means every Christian has a calling to do everything.  In 1 Corinthians 12, it is clear that not everyone has the same gifts, though they all are equally important to the whole of Christianity.  When God created you, He gave you certain gifts and abilities that are unique in the way they are combined in you.  Necessarily, then, there are certain things in life that you are more suited to than someone else with a different combination of gifts.  But that still does not mean there is only one thing by which you could serve God and humanity.  You have options, and as long as your focus is on using your gifts to serve God and other people, whatever you choose (even if it's different things over your lifetime), be assured you are living out your calling, and that God is using you to bless this world:

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." - 2 Corinthians 2:14-15(NIV)


Post a Comment