We often think of calling as this mysterious, enigmatic idea.
I know lots of people who are waiting around for a calling
from God to come in the form of a dream or a vision or a
crazy prophet who walks up to them on the sidewalk with
fire in his eyes and a word from God — Go become a rockclimbing
And that does happen.
I think of Moses and the burning bush in Sinai or Paul on the
road to Damascus.
But what if those stories are in the Scriptures not because they
are normative, but because they are the exception to the rule?
Because for most of us, calling is much more ordinary and
normal and low-budget and made-for-TV.
I think a better way to think about calling is as what God made
you to do. How you’re hardwired by God.
I’m a sucker for personality tests — you know those? Myers-
Briggs, DISC, StrengthsFinder — I eat that stuff up. It’s the art
and science of humanness. It’s self-discovery — learning who
God made us to be. And they are incredibly helpful. I honestly
think that we’re more likely to figure out our calling from a
four-letter Myers-Briggs label than we are from a burning bush.
Although, if I had the option, I would go for the bush every time.
But so much of finding your calling is about finding out who
you are and what you alone can contribute to the world.
The word vocation can also be translated voice. Man, that says
a lot. Your vocation is your voice.
The Quakers have a saying about calling that I love: Let your
Finding your calling is about finding your voice — what cuts
over all the din and drone of the other seven-billion-plus
people on earth. The tune and tone that only you can bring to
Calling isn’t something you choose, like who you marry or
what house you buy or what car you buy; it’s something you
unearth. You excavate. You dig out. And you discover.
We usually ask little kids, What do you want to be when you
grow up? I wonder if we’re setting them up for failure with that
question. Maybe a better question is, Who are you? What do
you think God made you to do when you grow up?
That, my friends, is the question. Who are we? How are we
hardwired by our Maker? What is it that God had in mind
the day we were born? These are the questions of calling
I was brought up in a culture that essentially said, John Mark,
you can do anything you put your mind to. If you work hard
enough, if you believe in yourself, if you’re patient, you can do
anything. This is such a middle-class-and-above American
way to think. Nobody in the developing world would ever talk
like that. And if you’re a millennial and you came of age during
the recession, fewer and fewer of us talk like that either.
But still, one of the reasons we’re so disillusioned with the
economy right now is because, somehow, this idea of “I can
be anything I want” is bred into us by our ancestry. And it’s not
all bad. It gave me the courage to dream and ideate and step
out in life.
But it’s also dangerous because, sadly, it’s not true.
I can’t be anything I want to be, no matter how hard I work or
how much I believe in myself.
All I can be is me. Who the Creator made John Mark to be.
If we fight the image of God in us — even if we succeed in the
short run — it will come back to eat us alive.
If you’re an introvert and you go into sales and you’re with
people ten hours a day — it will suck you dry.
If you’re a thinker with a rapacious appetite for learning but you
go into manual labor, it’s going to drive you insane.
If you’re a natural leader and love moving people
forward toward a goal but you end up doing research or writing
papers for a university of lab, it’s only a matter of time until you
Now, at some point, we just need to be thankful for a job. The
economy is in and out of the tank, and some of us have it
pretty tough. And it’s also true that Jesus is with us no matter what we do,
and what he called “life to the full” isn’t dependent on having our dream job.
Which is great, since billions of people see work simply as a way to survive.
We’ll talk more about that later.
For now, all I’m saying is what we do should grow out of who we are.
There’s a lot of talk about burnout right now. As a society, we
are overworked, tired, stressed out, and frazzled — the digital
age is hollowing out our soul. But burnout isn’t always the
result of giving too much; sometimes it’s the result of trying to
give something you don’t have to give in the first place.
You learn this when you try to do something and you fail. Or
worse, you succeed but a part of you dies inside.