On Finding Your Calling (A Letter to my Grown Kids)
With both my kids graduating college this month, there’s been a lot of talk around here about what happens next. School has a way of occupying your time and thoughts and filling a sense of purpose for a while – until suddenly it’s over and your days are wide open and you have to decide how to fill them.
So I’m sharing this letter publicly. Yes, it’s personal but maybe it will speak to you as well. I hope so.
Dear Alyssa & Jarod,
I have to start this the way every letter from every parent starts, by saying I am so proud of you both. For the individuals you’ve become – passionate, purposeful, gifted, funny, authentic. Even if you were someone else’s kids, you would still be two of my favorite people. You are truth-seekers, adventurers, worshippers, and lifelong learners. And here you are, standing at this crossroad, ready to embrace your calling and make a difference in the world.
There’s that word again… CALLING. It seems to be at the forefront of so many conversations these days. It’s a common topic for books, bloggers, pastors, public speakers, counselors, and coaches. Google “find my calling” and over 25 million sites pop up. How in the world is that supposed to help narrow it down?
Our western civilization tends to value individualism over the collective group.
One of the best books I’ve come across on the subject is The Call by Os Guinness. He reminds us that there can be no calling without a Caller. That our primary calling is to God Himself. Only in the context of an intimate, ongoing conversation with your Maker will you find your secondary calling, which is where you will live and the work you will do and the people you will impact. In the truest sense, your calling is simply your response to God as He reveals specific needs in the world and how your unique wiring was designed to be part of the solution.
You have been summoned with both an individual calling and a corporate calling. Our western civilization tends to value individualism over the collective group. So often the books, seminars and podcasts on calling focus ONLY on the individual – your gifts, strengths, and passions - but that’s only part of the equation. As a Christ-follower, your life is not your own. The corporate calling is the greater calling that keeps us from getting sucked into a narcissistic, self-serving vacuum. It’s all the “one another’s” Jesus talked about. Love, serve, honor, encourage, build up, forgive.
You are called into community. To be a valuable, responsible, working member of society and of the body of Christ… a small part of the greater whole. You have gifts that are needed. As Tim Keller says, your work is simply a way God loves the world through you.
Try not to get hung up on the idea that your life has one purpose that you have to search for desperately as if God is keeping it a secret and almost daring you to find it. Far too many have spent their lives paralyzed by this belief, so afraid of saying “yes” to the wrong thing they end up saying “no” to everything. I hope you have lots and lots of “yeses” in your life.
Never forget your identity as image bearers, kingdom dwellers, & culture shapers. You weren’t placed on this earth to be mere consumers, but to be creators and cultivators. In Culture Making, Andy Crouch suggests the only way to change culture is to create something new. Our work doesn’t become culture shaping “until it leaves the artist’s studio or the writer’s desk or the designer’s notes and imaginations”. “Real artists ship”, he claims. Your work… your product… your calling is meant to be shared.
I’m glad you both took the long road through college. You’ve taken the time to discover who you are and where you fit. You’ve done internships and experienced other cultures and played a variety of roles in this season of young adulthood. The paths you’ve chosen – or the paths that have chosen you – are creative ones. Music, art & design, photography, writing… these are not career choices that come with well-marked instructions. But this is where I have no doubt your innovative resourcefulness combined with God’s leading will carve out a life that is both blessed and a blessing to the world around you.
And finally, I hope you live your life in such a way that people can never tell whether you’re working or playing or worshipping. Let these be so intertwined as to suggest you are always doing all three.
I love you to the moon and back.