June 15, 2012
Created Uniquely for a Purpose: Thoughts on Calling and Vocation
By Lisa Rieck
On December 26 of this year, thousands of college-age students will gather in St. Louis for the twenty-third Urbana Student Missions Conference. They'll study Scripture, explore missions opportunities, buy books, sing, pray, and attend seminars and plenary sessions full of rich content from ministry veterans. Above all and in all, they'll be asking how God might want to use them, with their unique gifts and passions and experiences, in his great kingdom work.
I attended Urbana as a college student and asked the same question. For me, the conference provided truth and direction as well as ignited passions in me that have continued to inform my sense of purpose. But the journey to answer The Question "What am I supposed to do with my life?" didn't end there, of course. I'm still asking and discerning and learning. (I've heard that the thirties bring good clarity and definition to the process. I hope so. Several thirty-something friends who have recently discerned a more specific direction for their life are encouraging me.)
We all desire to have a calling and purpose, a sense of our contribution to the vast planet we live on. The good news is that God creates each of us with unique passions and gifts that, when used well, reveal his goodness, strength, beauty, power, peace, wisdom to a broken world. The harder reality is that we rarely discover our calling in an instant, no matter how much we might fantasize about receiving a one-sentence Personal Mission Statement from God via burning bush or audible voice. Becoming aware of the contexts that utilize our gifts and make us feel alive is often a lifelong process of knowing ourselves better and discerning how our gifts and passions meet a need others have. It's an exciting journey, to be sure, but one that requires patience, community, risk, and faith in the goodness, purposefulness and wisdom of God.
It's also a journey that will be different for each of us, and different even in various seasons of our own life. For some of us, a job outside the home may be the primary place where we fulfill our sense of calling. For others, ministry or family roles may be the place where we feel most alive. Some people will be called to roles that put them in the limelight, while others will be most fulfilled in less public roles. And sometimes the demands in front of us--the urgent, nitty-gritty life details and unexpected crises--require all our energy, leaving little room for pursuit of our passions. Whatever stage we're in, though, we can trust that God has created each of us beautifully to bring an important piece of his kingdom to earth.
To inspire you (because we like to be helpful like that), we at Strangely Dim are going to post reflections on calling over the next several months. We'll share the questions we're asking, the stories of God's leading in our lives so far, the way our sense of calling has changed or is changing, the frustrations we've faced and the areas we're passionate about. We've also invited some guest bloggers to offer perspective from their different vantage points, whether eager and energized in college, or juggling work and life responsibilities in mid-career, or feeling a sense of deep joy and contentment after years of living out a perceived calling. Along the way, we'd love to learn from you and hear your story as well. Where are you at? What resources have been helpful? What questions are you still asking? What are you passionate about? Together, our stories of calling tell God's Story: his plan, from the beginning, to use us in his great, purposeful work of restoring all things.
Wherever you're at in your journey, here are a few books that might help: