Hold Loose Your Calling, Hold Fast to Christ

It has been a season of enduring significant hardships and experiencing very real losses. We are learning some deep lessons around key factors shaping our life and identity that we may not have chosen to learn on our own. Many of the losses and lessons from the current pandemic and subsequent quarantine have hit upon the ways we can or cannot use our time and presence, be it in the context of workplace, school, or home life. Because our sense of calling is intricately tied to what we do at work, school, and/or home, this pandemic has undoubtedly affected our practice of—and feelings about—what we felt to be our callings.

Some of us might find ourselves pressed to do things we never felt called to before. I’ve never felt called to be a homeschooling parent, and now I have been forced to learn some of the ropes of teaching my children from home. Some of us have experienced losses in areas that we felt deeply called to—loss of a job we loved, loss of freedom and time to pursue opportunities in areas we are passionate about, or loss of opportunities to connect with people we care for deeply (e.g. our church’s inability to hold an in-person Royal Family Kids Camp this year). Some of us actually find ourselves with new opportunities to pursue interests we couldn’t before, and need wisdom in how to go about doing so in God-honoring ways.

Given the ways our experiences with our current callings have been changing with this pandemic, we can undoubtedly benefit from revisiting some Biblical truths about calling so that we are not trying to stand on the shaky ground of worldly perspectives.
1. To be called by God is a glorious gift of grace.

There is a worldly perspective on calling that strongly appeals to our flesh. It focuses on the glorification of self: How amazing we think we are in and of ourselves, how much we think we deserve all that we have worked for, and how we might hope to leave our unique stamp on the world for as long as possible.

While our pride may be drawn to this perspective like moths to a light, we will only find ourselves chasing an elusive prize of fleeting glory and setting ourselves up for disappointment in that pursuit. I gave a TEDxTalk three years ago, which may seem glorious—but the reality is that, for the most part, it has simply gotten buried in the endless stream of online videos. This is the temporal reality of looking for anything else to be glorious except knowing the Lord, the King of Glory. Our souls only find rest, freedom, and wholeness when we humbly realize that the greatest overarching calling in our life comes from God and is for God, and that this calling is a gift of grace.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
-1 Peter 2:9-10

2. To be called by God into a role that aligns with your passions and strengths is a temporary blessing, not an end goal.

The world will have us believe that finding a role (or multiple roles) that aligns with our passions and strengths is a fulfilling end goal for our lives. The message is that these roles are not only what we need to feel complete, but what we are entitled to. When they become both our idol and our servant, we are set up for disappointment when they fail us or come to an end. The dramatic effects of the current pandemic on our country’s economy and employment have shown us the painfully temporary nature of these roles.

While Scripture certainly supports the idea that we each have a specific part and unique giftings within the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:14-25), it also reminds us that our part and giftings are granted to us not so much for permanent personal fulfillment, but rather to serve others and bring glory to the Lord.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 
1 Corinthians 12:4-7

These passages from 1 Corinthians are not a broad stroke promise that God will always place us in personal and professional roles that perfectly fit our God-given personalities, passions, and strengths. They are simply a description of how he gives us unique gifts to honor Him and serve others, regardless of where our personal and professional roles land us. There are seasons during which He calls us to suffer, to sacrifice, to trust Him when we feel we are in a wilderness, and to find our joy in Him alone. The Apostle Paul was clearly a gifted public leader and preacher, but under God’s sovereignty he landed in prison for years. Even as Jesus restored Peter to Himself and to ministry (John 21:17-19), He told Peter in the same breath that “when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” Not all seasons will feel ideal or fruitful (Eccl. 3:1-8). The seasons during which He allows us to operate and flourish in roles that align with our passions and strengths are a blessing to us for however much time He allows, intended to then bless others and honor Him. They are not an end goal in and of themselves.

3. We have in Christ all we need for fulfillment, even if the season for a particularly rewarding calling is over.

My good friend Joyce held a dream in her heart for years to become a Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) pilot. After a decade of training at MIT, in the Air Force, seminary and pilot training, her dream came true. God had moved in incredible ways to bring her to Indonesia, where her life experiences, heart passions and giftings were coming together to serve the unreached in remote villages as a pilot and IT specialist for MAF. We marveled at His work and celebrated her joy as she moved overseas.
A couple of weeks after her first solo flight as an official MAF pilot, Joyce took off alone early one morning to deliver school supplies and COVID-19 rapid test kits to a remote village. Two minutes after takeoff, she sent a mayday signal. She tried to turn her plane around, but it was too late. Her plane crashed into a lake, and her body was recovered later that day.

All of us who loved and knew her—and even people who didn’t—grieved this loss deeply. Joyce seemed to have reached the point in life that we all seem to yearn for: uniquely positioned in a vocation that aligned perfectly with her personality, passions, and giftings. If the attainment of that role as a MAF pilot had been her ultimate goal, then this story would end in nothing but tragedy. But the beautiful truth was that from the day she gave her heart to Christ and received His life in her, she already had everything she would ever need to be fulfilled, even as her dream time as a MAF pilot ended more quickly than any of us ever would have imagined. Joyce had, in fact, come to terms very early on in her MAF training with the possibility of dying in a plane. In her own words, “…I made peace with this a long time ago. It doesn’t scare me to fly. If I die doing this, then I died doing what God called me to do and I have no regrets about that.” Joyce had set her ultimate goal to be loving, knowing, and following Christ, be it in life or in death.
Joyce’s identity and deepest joy was in being called to Christ Himself. Her other temporary life callings—even her dream calling—were simply a gift for however long they lasted, for the service of others, and for the glory of God. For all of us who bear His name, these truths are an unshakable foundation and assurance as we seek to trust and follow Him with our callings in these uncertain days.
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