“I’ve discovered my calling” is one of those Christian phrases that is simultaneously indispensable and nauseating. Discovering one’s calling in the journey of faith is a truly difficult task, fraught with doubt, anxiety and the ever-present possibility of self-deception. But it is made doubly difficult due to the influence of our culture’s pervasive individualism and the slogans of pop psychology.
I’ll come right out and say it: discovering my calling is generally reduced to some vague notion of self-fulfillment and well-being. This is more easily seen in the process of how we come to decide what is not our calling, namely those things that make us feel unhappy, unwanted, unfulfilled and possibly even marked with garden-variety suffering.
How on earth (or, more appropriately, in hell) has a religion that follows a tortured and executed savior come to so thoroughly identify following said savior with such a trite therapeuticism? We blather on about “the abundant life” promised to disciples of Jesus, but gloss over the whole “the world will hate you like it hates me” thing that Christ made pretty clear to those who would follow him (c.f. John 15:18-21).
This is the place where happy hunters will tell me that I’m being gloomy. Pardon me while I go don some sackcloth and bathe in ashes. I’d like to make it quite clear that shifting the major discernment factor for calling from happiness to misery would be simply to repeat the same mistake we’re currently making in a different direction. I’m not interested in resurrecting self-flagellation or “this world’s not my home”-style escapism either.
No, when we’re discerning our calling, we walk by faith. This means that we don’t have obvious answers or easy measuring sticks. Or, in short, it’s really, really hard, filled with moments of clarity, stretches of discouragement, and occasional snatches of wonder. It’s subject to the full range of what it means to be a human being created in the image of God. God help us to not reduce calling to the myth of unfailing fulfillment.