The Mystery of Callings

“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” — I Kings 19:11-13

We are always called to something.

Most of the time, the calling isn’t specific or temporal. It’s the constant general calling to live righteously, work as unto the Lord, be a light, seek and show mercy, repent and forgive, and love like Christ.

It’s up to our own free will and judgement to determine which jobs and activities to engage in while we heed this general calling. Most choices in life don’t involve direct obedience or disobedience to a specific calling. Most are up to you to choose what you deem best, as long as you persist in living your general calling as best you can.

But sometimes there’s a specific calling to do a specific thing at a specific time.

I’ve experienced this only twice in my life. In one instance, it came as the gentle whisper. In another, it came as something much more dramatic. Maybe not earth-shaking wind, quake, or flame, but certainly more than a whisper.

I’d like to think I heeded it both times. Except it’s hard to know, because neither call had an expiration date. I was to do something, which I did, but when was I to stop doing it?

In the one case, I’m sure the answer is “never”. It is a persistent life calling for me to focus on some specific things. A way to help me see and make those choices which are left to my free will in a better way.

In the other case, it’s much harder to tell. I took the calling, with great pains and joys, succeeded at least to some degree, and then tried to take it to what I thought was the next level. But that next level ended in a miry swamp. Did I abandon the original calling too soon? Was it a mistake to try to expand it, hand it off, split it into two?

I don’t know.

I hope I will someday hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”, but I have no confidence that I will.

Being off the path of that calling after having once walked it is far, far harder than never having had the calling at all. I’m never sure if I’m in the right place, if I’m being punished, if I’m being rewarded, if I’m being prepared, if I’m all used up, if I have more fights ahead.

As demanding as a calling is, there’s nothing quite so draining as being unsure if you still have one when once you did. I never got the, “The job is done, you may rest before your next adventure” moment I imagined. Nor have I had the, “You failed, you quit too early, you abandoned your post” moment. I am left guessing.

Perhaps the test is for me to re-learn to find the still small voice, after having once been spoken to through the storm. Perhaps it’s to empathize with the many who never receive a specific calling, but are only called to be faithful in the day to day generally. I don’t know.

I do know that it has helped me see more clearly the extent to which any success I had in that calling was not my doing. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. What I was able to do following that call was done by Him, not me.

So here I am Lord. Whatever is next, even if it’s nothing in particular, I’m here for it. Only help me see and hear.