The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:24
I’m seventeen. The neon lights flicker, pages rustle, and the purple ink stares back at me, “You have a way with words, Emily. Never stop writing.”
And just like that, something sparked to life in me. Those words bridged the connection between my head and my heart that had been forming but I’d never been quite sure of. I knew that writing did something inside of me. I knew that words had power over me – could make my pulse race or tears spring from my eyes. I knew that they helped me know what was actually going on within me – but until someone else whom I trusted and respected, my twelfth grade English teacher, I didn’t fully realize that I should, in fact, “Never stop writing.”
I’m eighteen. I’ve chosen a major in public relations because who walks into their advisor’s office and declares, “I want to be a writer,” and gets taken seriously?
So, I choose something that seems glamorous and exciting and will take me to a high rise in NYC. I imagine high heels and great outfits and corner offices. Then I have to take Political Science, and I want to die. This is not what I signed up for. I want to use words to move people – not talk about the nitty gritty of our political system. Funnily enough, now I’d love to take Political Science, but you don’t know laziness from disinterest when you’re eighteen, so I chose a different major. Education. People always told me I’d make a great teacher. I was a babysitter – as in it was one of my only jobs until I became an adult. Yes – a teacher – and that’s the best mom job, which is my main goal in life.
For the record, I wound up graduating with a degree in English. I could use it for all sorts of things, surely. A corner office as an editor OR a classroom full of faces – either would work with an English degree…said the clueless twenty year old.
If I’m being honest, calling was weird to me. I never thought about what I was, “called,” to. Somewhere around nineteen or twenty, I just stopped worrying much about it. I had always planned to finish college, and I would – but what I did with what I learned there, what I did beyond that, I just wasn’t all that worried about. I’d be getting married, having babies, driving a mini-van, and having a generally fantastic time with my husband.
You think I’m exaggerating. Sadly, I am not.
I think that calling is tricky. The dictionary defines it as, “a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career.” Some people figure that out when they are nineteen. Some wait until they are about twenty five. Some are sixty and just discovering their calling.
The trouble is that calling sometimes has nothing to do with profession. Some people are fortunate enough to be entirely impassioned by what they do for a living. However, most of us do not have that luxury – and that’s okay.
For so long, I’ve run from my own calling because I’ve focused mainly on how it could be used to upgrade my life and have found that, frankly, it may never do that. To be honest, I am still muddling through all of this – and I don’t know exactly what it looks like played out.
But when everything goes quiet and my soul settles into stillness – I can hear the drum beat of my heart. It’s always been the same, “Write. Write. Write. Write.”
And then there’s calling in the “from God” sense of the word. He called Abraham to start a nation, Moses to set them free, Nehemiah to rebuilt their wall, and Isaiah to prophesy to them in the nude. He called Paul to go here and there and not there – all over Europe and Asia. He called Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. alike to say the hard truth out loud. He called Esther to be queen when she’d have rather stayed home. He called the foreigner Ruth to uncover a tipsy man’s feet in the middle of the night as a request for him to marry her. He called Mary to carry, raise, and a surrender a baby that she likely never fully understood until He took His place at the right hand of the Father.
Do you see that they didn’t all necessarily know that they were living any grand calling? They probably almost never felt qualified or sure or even excited about their calling. They just knew that they were saying, “Yes,” to the next thing God asked them to do – and they believed their good, good God.
I’m twenty-two and my husband walks in declaring his calling to ministry, and I am terrified disguised as appalled. I can feel God pulling me into something I never signed up for, never said, “Yes,” to, never even considered. I spend the next decade determinedly declaring that he was called but I was not – and what am I supposed to do with that. Until I take inventory of my life and my heart and gingerly step into a ministry roll that has nothing to do with Josh – because I want to, because it matters to me – and over two years realize that calling is a very real part of following Jesus and it often looks very different than what “feels” right.
I’ve always run from calling out of fear.
- Fear that I was mistaken.
- Fear that I would get it wrong.
- Fear that I would fail at my calling – I mean who does that?
- Fear that I would be mocked or viewed as irrelevant or silly.
- Fear that I would disappoint.
But do you see the problem there? I am the focus, the queen, the center of it all. We all have a calling – and I can tell you that it is for our good, but that it is likely not for our comfort. Some of us have tasted it. Some of us have not. Some of us will stand on big stages and the world will know our calling. Some of us will live a calling that is only ever seen by God Himself and a select few. We don’t get to decide what our callings will look like. We only get to decide whether we will lean into them, stumbly and unsure but willing – or whether we will run away because of fear.
What I don’t want to do is live my life on auto-pilot. I don’t want to do this day and then the next and then the next without a sense that God is present. He is purposeful and intentional with my life, and He asks me to be the same. Not in a “force things to work for me” or “be a big deal” kind of way but in a humble, child-like, “What’s next, Father,” kind of way. Are you awake in your own life? Do you have a sense of calling in what you do? In motherhood or education or healthcare or law. In marketing or sales or as a creator or a friend. In your office building or your rocking chair or your book club or your Facebook feed – do you know? Are you aware that you are set apart and called to do good works for the glory of God the Father?
Over the past several weeks, the Lord has impressed on my heart over and again: Stop running from your calling, Emily. Stop overanalyzing and trying to use it to upgrade your life or stretch and squeeze it to be what makes life easiest for you. Just stop running and instead do the next thing you know to do to step into your calling. I have a unique and intentional purpose for your life, child. Every seemingly haphazard circumstance, every blind step you’ve taken, every sleepless night holding a baby, every word typed out into the digital world – I am using it all to keep you on the path I’ve designed for you. Just do the next thing but whatever you do, stop running away.
Maybe He’s saying something similar to you.