He looked across the room at me with a decided solemnity: "I would never go smaller than Spokane."
My heart broke a little, because nothing about this singularly determined arrangement seemed right to my heart. You see, at the ages of 10, 11, and 12 years old, I beheld vivid visions of a little church in a small, country town. Each time my mind's eye gazed upon the building sitting proudly on its corner, sign out front, families entering to worship, I experienced a strong sense that this church in some way belonged to my future. Nothing about it had seemed unfamiliar. In fact, it reminded me of the sort of churches I often visited in small towns where family members lived and vacations had been spent. In my visions, I belonged there. It was a place for me to serve. Somehow, I believed it was waiting for me, despite the stark contrast between its quaintness and the large, impersonal, suburban church we ministered in at the time.
"Are you sure? Is there no chance you would change your mind?"
We had formed a connection with a small handful of precious individuals, but my husband and I had never really felt comfortable or at home where we were. While we went into it with a sense of God's leading to serve Him there for 6-7 years (it ended up being 6 1/2), we periodically kicked around ideas of what our next step might be. This was one of those conversations.
"I'm sure. There's no chance. I would never go smaller than Spokane."
The head of our house had made up his mind; half a million people in Eastern Washington was small enough for him.
Fast forward five years, and we were happily waving goodbye to the city in which we had been raised, one of our children had been born, and in which both of our families still lived. The part about leaving our families stung (it still does), but our hearts simply could not hold on to a place where we knew we no longer belonged.
Our next assignment awaited at the corner of Center St. and J in a darling little community of about 2,300 in the Oregon Outback: the very place I had seen all those years before.
What happened? What changed?
Well, I should clarify. The calling had always been there, but his awareness of that specific assignment hadn't been clear.
In the years between my husband's now laughable proclamation and our admission into a rural community, God had radically transformed the desires of his heart and turned his attention toward both the beauty and need of communities like the one we now call home. This, we knew, was a place God had asked us to serve, love, and live in for the foreseeable future. No time table this time -- just unreserved service to our King and the people we so passionately want to lead to know Christ and grow in Him.
We had discovered the answer to the big question everyone seems to ask at some point in their journey: What am I supposed to do with my life? What is my calling?
Calling is a funny thing.
It seems everyone wants to know what theirs is! My husband and I have worked with teens for the past thirteen years, and it's the #1 question they ask. Young mothers delight in their babies but wonder, "Is there something more I'm supposed to be doing?" (The world certainly says motherhood isn't enough.) Middle-aged empty nesters wave their last goodbye on a college campus, returning to their car and the tearful drive home asking, "What now?" And when the decorations are pulled, the last of the cake put away, the lights turned off, and the door locked behind, the new retiree gazes upon sunset years ahead hoping to make the most of the journey.
Why do so many people crave to know their calling? Because...
EVERYONE WANTS TO DO SOMETHING MEANINGFUL
Each human heart has been endowed by their Creator with a desire to mean something, to make a difference, to be somebody, to have a purpose. We are, after all, made in the image of God. Certainly God doesn't make mistakes nor do anything without reason. He is the author of reason!
So...What's a giant to do?
I recently learned that "calling" is a word not always associated with religion and spirituality; rather, any secular individual could refer to themselves as having a calling.
Miriam Webster defines it this way:
"the vocation or profession in which one customarily engages."
One might consider themselves to be called to teaching, medical practice, child rearing, or military duty, but I have to wonder...How does one know to what they are called without knowing who called them?
This is why Miriam Webster gives this primary definition of calling:
"a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence" (emphasis added)
Do you see it? By conviction of divine influence.
GOD IS THE ONE WHO CALLS
The apostle Paul makes it clear in his admonition to the young minister, Timothy:
"He has saved us and called us to a holy life" (2 Timothy 1:9)
Calling is so much more than a vocation. It's an appointment by the Giver of Life, with the chief purposes of glorifying God and advancing His kingdom. If you were to spend much time with me in Bible Study, conversation, or anywhere else where you could hear the sound of my voice, you'd hear it over and over and over again. I'm convinced nothing matters more. Our greatest joy and sense of purpose is found in glorifying God and making Him known!
OUR CALLING ISN'T MYSTERIOUS
I can confidently proclaim to you your calling because God has made it plain. (Remember, by the way, this rule of thumb: The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things.)
Check out what Jesus commanded His people:
"He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15)
From that we find Calling #1: Preach the gospel.
What does it mean to preach the gospel? Announce the good news. Jesus saves! He made a way for us to be reconciled to God despite our sin because He paid the price on the cross. Not only that...He didn't stay dead! He rose from the grave three days later, conquering death and leading the way to eternal life. There's no better news, and we ought to let everyone know!
"Oh, but Kimberlee, I'm not the boisterous type. I'm not an extrovert like you. I can't preach."
Oh, yes you can! (More on that in a moment.)
And you must. Because...Jesus called you to it.
You might not get up in front of large crowds of people and preach, but you very well may sit across the lunch table from a friend who is pouring her aching heart out to you, and in a moment of tremendous privilege and divine appointment assure her the good news of reconciliation with God is for her too. You may strike up a conversation with the man behind you in line at the grocery store and find an opening to declare "the reason for the hope that resides within you" (1 Peter 3:15). In the next month as Christmas approaches, you'll have ample opportunity to proclaim with great joy that Christ really is Emmanuel, God with us, the Light of the world, and the reason you celebrate! All of these and countless more are ways every Christian can preach the gospel.
He also called you to this:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Now you know Calling #2: Make disciples.
Help people know how to grow in God! When the Bible talks about making disciples, it means we are to strengthen, support, and place ourselves and others firmly upon the truth of scripture. We have a firm foundation in Christ, and everybody ought to know it! Nothing else in this world is secure like Jesus. In a world of shifting circumstances, structures, and standards, He's our rock, and we can trust in Him.
All of us influence somebody. It doesn't take a seminary degree to point the people in your sphere of influence to the plain truth of scripture and admonish them to walk in God's ways. How many times do we converse with others who ask, "What should I do in this situation?" and "What does this circumstance of my life mean?" Even when we don't know the answer, we can respond with confidence, "I'm not sure, but let's look into God's Word together and find out." That's discipleship!
This is what we see Paul and company doing many places in scripture, including here:
"They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples." (Acts 14:21)
There. It wasn't so hard figuring out your calling, was it?
Or was it?
When people ask what their calling is, perhaps they're usually wondering more about their assignment than their calling. The Bible speaks to this:
"Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him." (1 Corinthians 7:17)
So...What's a giant to do?
EVERY GIANT HAS AN ASSIGNMENT Both of my boys are working through Algebra I in our homeschool. Math has never really been my thing, but God can use anything to speak to us...including, believe it or not, math assignments. Recently we worked on a concept known as "functions." You may or may not remember it from school, but here's what I'm talking about:
Our assignment is the specific way in which we walk out our calling, the function of our calling. As I pondered this idea, I was reminded of our math lessons about function... You see, a function isn't a function without two variables:
1. The independent variable x
2. The dependent variable f(x)
When you look at the equation for a linear function f(x)=mx+b, for example, you can't know what the function f(x) is until you know what x is. I know, I know...I've lost most of you...(If I weren't spending my mornings working these problems with my kids, I would probably be just about ready to "X" out of this little article and move on in my day, but please hang with me!)
Here's what I'm getting at: Just as you can't know the dependent variable until you know the independent variable, you can't know the function of your calling until you know who God is. Essentially, God is the independent variable (He is who He is regardless of anything else), and we are always the dependent variable (totally without resource if it were not for our Creator).
Everything depends upon Him. If you want to know the function of your assignment (the "how" of walking out your calling), you have to know your God.
So...What's a Giant to do?
Ask God! He brought you to this point, positioned you where you are, and will prompt you (sometimes prod and coax too), to set you right in the middle of your appointment. I like how Beth Moore put it in her 2019 Living Proof Live Simulcast:
When my family and I headed south to our new home in Oregon, the time was finally right, the position had finally opened up, and the Holy Spirit had prompted all four of our hearts. (I'll save that story for another day!) Our appointment was clear.
What are you to do?
I can't say. But I can assure you that when these three crucial elements of timing, positioning, and prompting align, when they serve the primary purposes of glorifying God and advancing His kingdom, and when they accomplish the calling to evangelize and make disciples, you've found your appointment.
YOU PROBABLY WON'T HAVE TO LOOK VERY FAR TO FIND IT, EITHER.
I love how I recently heard it said:
"Your location is evidence of your calling." Pastor JJ Vasquez
Sometimes God moves us from one place to another (He's done it for my family), but usually all we have to do is look around to see it clearly: people here need Jesus, wherever your here is!
"BUT HOW? I'M SCARED!"
Jesus gave us a wonderful promise before ascending to heaven:
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Where the Lord calls, He provides. The Holy Spirit's job is to empower us for our calling, so when He calls us to witness and evangelize our world for Him, He empowers. Where He calls us to build our lives upon the truth of His Word and raise others up to do the same through discipleship, He empowers. Indeed,
"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (2 Peter 1:3)
Thankfully, we can entirely depend upon our great God because...
"The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
Do you need Holy Spirit empowerment? If you're breathing, the answer is "yes," so here's what you've got to do:
"Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)
Praise the Lord! He really is our all in all.
What's a giant to do?
Glorify God. Advance His kingdom. Proclaim the good news. Disciple well. Be faithful. And depend upon Him to prove Himself by providing everything you need. The rest is just details! To God be the glory!