Tomorrow is a BIG, BIG day for me. I am interviewing for a spot in graduate school at Winthrop next semester. (side note: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE say a prayer for me!) For a while I've been hesitant to even talk about the application process. Inevitably if I tell people about it, they'll ask for a follow up... and if I don't get in, well, that won't be a fun conversation. Even so, here I am writing about it. Why? Only because it relates to something that I think will make a good blog post. =)
One of the questions in the essay process, and for that matter, a question most people ask me when they hear that I work in mental health, is why I got involved in such a stressful field. What really makes anyone go into a specific career? I've been chewing on these ideas lately. The one word that's been floating around since the graduate school application process began... CALLING. Being that Winthrop is a secular school, I didn't discuss this concept at length in my essay, but I think its definitely something worth sharing with my small, but faithful blog audience.
Of course to a certain extent every follower of Christ has the same calling. Mark 12:28-31 makes that calling clear:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
But what about the career God wants you to have? This part isn't QUITE so clear in the Bible... I had to do a lot of reading and asking questions and praying about this. I did end up finding some interesting stuff though. And now, I'll share.
Our secondary calling is usually related to our job or career. Each secondary calling is different. How does God call us to a vocation? Here are some examples from the Bible:
God calls us directly: Abraham and Paul... he literally TOLD them what they were supposed to do.
God places a desire in your heart: Isaiah... He asked God to send him based on his own desire to serve others.
God takes some people along a path they would not have chosen: Daniel... he didn't know where he was going until he got there.
God offers an attractive option: Stephen... he was called as one of the seven in Acts 6.
One thing that I found interesting was that there were almost always other people involved in someone figuring out their calling. Often times God speaks through people, so why not about my calling in life?
For example, I can pinpoint two specific professors in my undergraduate education who REALLY inspired me. Both were intelligent, Godly men who practiced psychology in addition to teaching counseling and psychology classes.Their passion, dedication to helping others, and command of their field of study brought about a desire in me to study counseling. At the time I didn't recognize that this might be God's way of pointing me toward his purpose for my professional life, but in retrospect it makes a lot of sense. Interestingly enough though, those men didn't provide me with anything that I didn't already possess. They merely used the gifts and talents God gave them... and showed me ways that I could use mine.
As I was beginning the grad school process I was reading Pastor Steven's book "Sun Stand Still." Two sentences REALLY spoke to me:
I AM ABLE TO FULFILL THE CALLING THAT GOD HAS PLACED ON MY LIFE.
I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills [his purpose] for me. - Psalm 57:2
I AM FULLY RESOURCED TO DO EVERYTHING GOD HAS CALLED ME TO DO.
Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. - Deuteronomy 8:18
It was encouraging to know that I could do whatever God called me to do. But more than that I was encouraged by the thought that my personality, interests, talents are a way to know WHAT God has called me to do. God has provided me with certain resources that nobody else has. It follows that he gives me (and you) the talents necessary to fulfill the calling that he has for us. Obviously, I'm not athletic... God isn't calling me to the NBA. I am good at relating to people. God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called. What am I getting at exactly?
Yes, look to others to help you discover God's calling on your life... because they will help you understand yourself. Things I've been thinking about in this area...
Passion: What motivates you?
For me its all about relationships. Most things I enjoy have to do with other people. Whether its spending time with my family/friends/boyfriend, my work, or just social media I really like connecting.
Talent: Understand your gifts, and then seek work that matches them well.
I'm told I'm good with words. I pretty much never meet a stranger. I am good at building a rapport or finding a common bond with others.
Life experience: What has happened to you?
I want to work with teenage girls, helping them develop a positive self-image. Why? Because I know what it feels like to be a girl with a terrible opinion of herself. I know being a teenage girl is HARD.
Opportunity: Is there an open door?
My job at New Hope (working with teen girls) fell into my lap. I prayed and it showed up.
Community: Listen to the voice of others.
That professor I mentioned... He was the one who suggested that I apply to New Hope, and that ultimately counseling might be the field for me.
Joy—not happiness; joy.
As Dallas Williard puts it in Divine Conspiracy, “The deepest longings of our heart confirm me in my original calling.”
I must add a warning though. Calling, because it is so vital, presents us with moral challenges: First, our work should not drive us: Vocation is not about doing, but being. Second, our work should not trump family. A healthy sense of calling ought to lead to wise choices and good boundaries. Vocations, careers, jobs, and work flow from the primary calling: serving and loving God. Although secular minded people may not want to admit it, there is no calling without a Caller. Because there is a Caller, I have a calling... and so do YOU. If you're still looking, then I pray that you find it.
And if I don't get into Winthrop? Do I doubt my calling? Absolutely not. His ways are not my ways, so if Winthrop is not the pathway He has for me, then I look forward to seeing where he will take me, and I pray that I will have the wisdom to know the right opportunity when it comes around... and I pray the same for you.