Our calling changes and evolves over the years as we grow and our circumstances change.
My calling, during my high school years, was to connect with that spark, to develop a lifelong spirit of determination, and to learn grit, gumption, and scrappiness. Those virtues served me well in my callings that followed — as a wife, mother, designer, and writer — as a friend, leader, and creator.
The key to realizing your calling is to be comfortable with the fact that it will evolve as the seasons of your life change.
So often, we believe our vocation has to be our calling, that the service we contribute to the world has to be deeply rooted in who we were made to be. I’d argue that that’s not always the case. It’s wonderful to pursue your calling as your career. But it’s also okay to have a job that pays the bills and also have a calling that isn’t required to fund your life.
Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”1
Yes and amen.
There is inherent magic at the intersection of God’s calling for our lives and what makes us feel truly alive. To discover God’s calling for our lives, at least in this particular season, we have to know ourselves and know God. We do this by embracing who we are, celebrating what ignites our soul, and actively pursuing a relationship with God. If you travel the path toward what makes you feel most alive, and get to know God along the way, chances are you’ll eventually find yourself at that magic intersection.
If you’re at all like me, you might be thinking, Emily, I want to know God. but where do I begin? I pray. I go to church. But I don’t know if I really know Him or hear Him. Tactically, here are a few ideas for communing with God on a deeper level:
1. Pray simply. Our prayers don’t have to be fancy. In fact, they can be just a few words. I’ve found that repetition in prayer is sometimes really powerful — a trick I learned from Seth Haines, in his book Coming Clean. Seth struggled with alcohol addiction before getting (and staying) sober. When he would feel temptation wash over him, he’d step away and silently recite a simple prayer he learned from an old priest:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
It wasn’t an elaborate or particularly beautiful prayer, but it was simple and full of grace. These few words, spoken to rebuke the temptations that stirred within him, became a rhythmic way he brought Jesus to the ring to help him fight, and it inevitably brought him closer to God.
When I feel fear creeping up — multiple times a day, sometimes multiple times an hour if I’m being honest — I will simply and silently pray, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. There is beauty and power in simplicity.
2. Read expectantly. James 4:8 says,
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. — ESV
I sometimes struggle with this. I open my Bible, not sure where to start, and begin reading passages that I’m not entirely sure I understand. I’ve prayed hopeful prayers for God to help me connect with His Word. But in those times, I realized I was simply checking a box — reading my Bible because I thought it was a thing I should probably be doing, going in without expectation, and leaving empty-handed. It was only when I began to read expectantly, through guided readings and during group studies, that I began to draw nearer. I asked God hard questions. I confessed sins to Him. I even got angry about the twists and turns of my life. He met my expectancy with relevance, rich in both fact and faith.
3. Step boldly out of your comfort zone. We can pray and read all we want, but if we’re not acting as the hands and feet of Jesus, communing with the lost, the broken, the marginalized, and the excluded, what are we really doing? Understanding God’s way means loving and serving all people well, even those who may look, love, or believe differently than we do. If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always be who we’ve always been. How boring. I guarantee this is one of the most fantastic ways to find that intersection of who you are and who God called you to be. Bring more people into your tribe. Challenge yourself to love better and to serve the way Jesus did — without fanfare, without exception, with open arms. We can discover so much about God’s calling for our lives when we stop doing what we’ve always done, step outside our comfort zones, and allow ourselves to learn, to be challenged, and to discover that fire within us.
May you go forward with the bravery to fall short and try again. May you go forward expectant for God to make His calling for you known. The path to becoming the woman God called you to be is right alongside the path toward the woman you know you can be. There will be bumps, potholes, and puddles. For the world’s sake, may you be willing to get dirty and to become truly alive.
- Howard Thurman, as quoted in Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled (New York: Crossroads, 1995).
Excerpted with permission from Growing Boldly by Emily Ley, copyright Emily Ley.
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The world desperately needs you to come alive. To be joyful and passionate and fully awake. In this process, what are the things you’ve recalled that make you come alive? How does it feel for you to be fully awake, fully present, fully alive? This is your one solitary life. What will you do (what matters) and what will you forget (the rest)? ~ Devotionals Daily