From Compass Readings, 05-29-09
The following “marks of a call” are offered as templates to help discern whether or not our respective ministries are in fact activities to which God has called us. This list has been expanded from material developed by the Church of the Savior’s co-founder, Mary Cosby.
REMEMBER: These are only guidelines. God’s Spirit blows where it wills! Rarely will an individual call match all of these guidelines to the letter.
1. A call can be simply and clearly stated. Though it may be viewed in global terms it will be focused and manageable, e.g. “I believe God has called me to proclaim the Gospel through writing and performing songs,” or “I believe God has called me to care for families who are facing loss because of AIDS.”
2. It will have about it a sense of transcendence, mystery, and awe. It is more than just a good idea I have. When I ponder it, I have a sense of connection between God “in me” and God “out there,” a sense of being pulled closer to God as I do this work.
3. It will feel right. I will have a sense of destiny about this, a sense that I am meant for this work, made for this work. There will be a “yesness” about it.
4. It will persist. Though I may try to avoid it, it will keep popping up, until finally I must do it in order to have peace in myself.
5. It will bring joy – eventually, if not at first. It will be deeply satisfying, life-giving. As Elizabeth O’Connor says, “True vocation is that which makes us well when we are doing it even though we may not feel the joy.”
6. It will be costly. It is a “pearl of great value” which requires my total commitment, including a willingness to set aside other claims which may conflict with my call. I will need to trust that God will call others to complete what I am no longer called to do.
7. It will involve risk. What I am called to undertake may fail. But I am not called to be successful, only obedient and faithful in that to which I am called. And I am called to be faithful in what I believe to be my call, even though I may never have absolute confirmation that I have understood my call correctly!
8. It will call me to do the impossible – in human terms. I will seldom feel adequate to the task and like Moses, I will wonder, “Why me, God?” In so wondering, I will be led to rely on the grace and the power of God as the source of my strength.
9. It most likely will evolve and change over time. As I grow and develop “on the job”, God may refine my call. Call uses the gifts we bring, evokes new gifts from with us, and requires the gifts of others.
10. It may well come out of my woundedness, brokenness, and sorrow. W.H. Auden writes that “It is where we are wounded that God speaks to us.”
11. It will engage my deepest feeling. “To see visions or hear call without being faithful to one’s most ardent yearnings is utterly impossible” (Elizabeth O’Connor). It will be through my journey inward that the outward manifestation of call will become apparent.
12. It will stretch me and enable me to grow spiritually. If I find myself spiritually drained and diminished by my work, it is definitely not work to which I am called.
13. It will be counter-cultural, expressing kingdom values which will tend to conflict with the values and behaviors of the current social/ political/religious establishment. My calling may even expose me to ridicule and persecution.
14. It will contain within it an element of prophecy – a sense of, and an anticipation of, the promise of God’s kingdom that is coming. It will be about “Gospel living.”
15. It will be affirmed by at least one other person. Because God calls each of us in the context of a larger community of faith, this confirmation from the larger community is essential. But beware of others trying to determine for you what is your call. Other people can make mistakes based on their own enthusiastic but misguided desires.
16. It will involve some form of service to others and specifically to the poor, including persons who are economically, socially, and/or spiritually impoverished.
17. Call energizes, excites, and enlivens. Frederick Buechner writes, "Vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need."
So, are you on thread with God’s call to you? If not, what do you need to discern that call – and then to begin to move your feet in that direction?