3 Steps to Navigating Your Call

Sometimes things don’t always work out the way you plan them. When I was a freshman in college, I had my eyes set on med school. The end goal was fuel that propelled sleepless nights and ritualistic study groups. In the early days, all I thought about was becoming a doctor. But after two years of six hour labs and mediocre report cards, I decided that a course correct was in store. I knew I loved speaking, teaching, and developing people and I wanted to harness those gifts and passions. 

After college, I decided I would get a masters degree at a local seminary in order to pursue this inclination. I knew that I came alive when I served people in a local church context. At times I even had aspirations to plant a church of my own. But it has been in the last 5 years of finishing seminary and serving in a local church context that I have been reimagining what my calling is. 

Frederick Buechner says:

Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. True vocation joins self and service… The place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep needs.

I read this quote the other day and the question emerged: for the last decade, have I been pursuing a calling in the hopes of becoming someone who everyone else wanted me to become? Was I truly following who I was becoming or another version of what I thought people saw me to be? Doctor, Pastor… were these callings who I was supposed to become? 

The other element to this quote that stood out to me was that “true vocation joins self and service.” When we live out of who we were made to be, our gifts, talents, and energy meet the world in a significant and profound way. Our greatest gifts have the ability to meet the world’s greatest needs and for the last 12 months I have been wrestling with this reality. 

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About a month ago, I was on LinkedIn and I stumbled across a friend’s job posting. As some of you know, I have been coaching and consulting as a side business for the last three years and LinkedIn, social media, and email networking are all part of a small business mentality. But this job posting wasn’t a normal post, it was for a position at a local university in the Office of Strengths and Vocation. This position would be career coaching college students to help them understand their unique calling and vocation! Bam. I applied not knowing what this opportunity would hold. 

After five interviews over the course of four weeks, I was offered the opportunity to take this position and step down from my current role as the Site Pastor at Bridge. I accepted and I will be starting May 16th. I believe this calling is in line with who I am becoming and I am excited for this new trajectory and transition. 

But when it comes to calling, how do you process who you were made to be? For me, it was a long and arduous process but one I’m grateful for. Here are a few thoughts I have on navigating calling: 

  1. It’s a process. These conversations and wrestlings weren’t resolved overnight. Calling takes time and space and in the last 12 months, I have been actively listening and reimagining my roles and responsibilities and asking the question: Is this what I was really made for? What are things only I can do and that I come alive doing? What are things in my life that I shouldn’t do in order to create more space for what I should be doing? 
  2. It takes a tribe. Who we are becoming never happens in isolation. I had several mentors guide me along this path. It took hundreds of hours talking with my wife, friends, mentors, therapists, trusted advisors to help me navigate this new iteration of my call. This tribe is invaluable and is necessary when navigating calling. 
  3. You have to be true to yourself. As I processed taking this new job opportunity, I started second guessing myself about the transition and all the people I would be leaving behind. But as I became more honest with myself, I realized that I couldn’t make a decision about my calling based upon other people’s needs or perceptions. I needed to pursue my authentic self and listen to that inner voice. Calling must start from the inside, not ‘conforming to some image of who we ought to be.’

Calling is tricky. It’s more of an art than a science and let's be honest, I’m learning more and more about that every single day. So if you haven’t discovered your calling (I’m still processing mine as you can tell), give yourself a little break. It’s ok. Sometimes it takes a few tries of re-imagination and innovation in order to become more of who we are already becoming.