Did you ever feel left out of the “calling party?” Your friends seem so sure of what they are supposed to “be when they grow up.” They have a plan. They have connections. They may even have a conviction that they are pursuing the work for which God put them on this earth.
“Calling is for others” is a very destructive idea and it comes in several specific forms. These forms make up myths 3 and 4 of our series.
Myth #3: Calling Is Only For The Clergy.
This myth addresses the haves and have-nots of calling. During the medieval period, the organized church created a two-tiered level of vocation. Perhaps taking the Old Testament system of a priestly class to its logical conclusion—some are called to serve God, and the rest help those who serve God by paying the bill.
In more recent history, the “clergy-only” idea is reinforced by the use of the terminology by pastors and missionary types who share their “calling” stories. Some Christian institutions overtly reinforce the ideal that if you are deeply committed to the faith, you will leave it all and work in “the ministry.” In other faith circles, it is subtly implied. But this idea is a myth.
The great reformer, Martin Luther, wrote that God provides for our neighbors through the work of our hands.
The Apostle Paul wrote that God has good work for all of us to do. It’s part of his plan for our lives (Ephesians 2:10).
When we discover and pursue any dimension of that work, we are following a calling.
There is a non-church version of this myth as well.
Myth #4: Calling Is About Work That Is Altruistic, That Makes A Difference.
I live in New York City and ride the subway every day. I saw an advertisement on the placard for a medical school in the Caribbean. It said—find your true calling. (I wish I was called to study medicine in the tropics!) What are they implying? They are suggesting that learning and practicing medicine is a true calling. And it feeds into a myth.
The myth says work is only a calling when it is work in one of the traditional helping professions. The idea is that if find your way into medicine, social work, or education, then you have found a calling. The rest of us, well, we merely work for a living.
This is the secular version of the two-tiered system, and it is a myth. There are ways to have a positive impact on others in every type of work not just the officially helpful ones. All work have effects on people. I have a friend who currently is the president of a small company. Over his 30+ years of management and responsibility in the insurance business, he has impact 100s of lives through his empowering style of leadership.
We should also note that there are also some terribly mean and unhelpful people in the helping professions. Your industry code does not determine whether or not your work is a calling.
How About You?
Have you bought into one of these myths and unwittingly written yourself out of the Calling category? What sense of higher purpose and meaning might God have for you as you push past these unhelpful ideas?