Vocation Focus: Do You Know What You Want?Blog / Produced by The High Calling
What do you want? I’ve grown up in a culture that taught me all I needed to do was figure out what I wanted and then go make it happen: whatever the cost, whatever means necessary.
The biggest problem was I had no idea what I wanted. Still don’t.
Am I alone? Or do we have millions of twenty- and thirty-somethings running around, making things happen (whatever the cost or means), without an end goal? Perhaps.
Our world tells us we can go anywhere and achieve everything. Some of us just dive in and make things happen. Others are paralyzed by possibilities. In my conversations with my peers, I’ve found once the grandstanding is done, we are all similarly lost, feeling alone.
Getting here has been a taxing process for me, akin to running on a treadmill. The monitor claims I’ve run five miles, but I know I’m exactly where I started. When did calling become something we had to go find instead of something we have already received? As Paul tells us in Philippians, our calling is to be in relationship with God, as Jesus has made the way for us to do. God is not someone we go find—God finds us.
So ironically, we head out into the world in search of a calling we have already received. But our world has a narrow margin of error. When young professionals leave college, we lose many, if not all, of the support systems and structures we relied on until that time. It can feel a bit like heading into the wilderness without a map or a compass. We are all trying to find something without knowing exactly what we’re looking for.
I got lost in the wilderness once. Literally. I was hiking alone on a trail I had been down many times before. My friend Nich and I had travelled many of the trails in that wilderness together, but life had taken us different places that summer. I started on the trail, scared of what had been my backyard for five summers. My lack of confidence grew with every step I took up and down those rolling hills, catching cobwebs and trying to enjoy the scenery without tripping over a rock or running into a tree.
Eventually, I realized I had no idea where I was.
I had missed a turn somewhere along the way and found myself sitting on a rock surrounded by a wilderness that was closing in on me. There was no clear path. I closed my eyes to pray, only to find myself more disoriented when I opened my eyes. I didn’t even know which way I came from. Cedar trees monopolized my view in every direction. I was tired. I was struggling to recall why I ventured out in the first place.
When we get lost, our imaginations often get the best of us. Rather than enjoying gorgeous views in unexplored terrain and the opportunity of undiscovered trails, I pictured wild boars lurking around every corner and mountain lions hovering in every tree.
When we get spiritually lost, Jesus offers new imagination, new hopes and dreams. He invites us to rely to Him as our safety in the wilderness and chaos. Instead of wanting a compass to tell us where to go, Jesus can be our sunscreen and our headlamp, because we may be out there a while. Providing comfort, Jesus reminds us of the calling already within us.
Feeling lost along the way is inevitable, but Jesus gives us enough assurance and support for even the rockiest trail.
My peers lead incredibly busy lives, doing valuable work and experiencing varying measures of achievement early in their lives and careers. Many of us still feel emotionally and spiritually lost about our vocations, though. We struggle to connect all of the pieces of our life together, much less integrate our faith through everything we do. Overwhelming busyness coupled with spiritual disorientation breeds a loss of imagination. Pretty soon, we compartmentalize our lives just to survive, but it doesn’t feel right. We long for the “life that really is life,” as Timothy described it.
Each job, each friend, and each dream is a destination in and of itself, because each is a place to know, experience, and share God. Here is what I tell myself: “Believe God’s calling on your life is to be yourself, just as he made you to be. Believe you can be you in any environment or situation. Believe you are truly God’s—no need to earn or prove it.” From that place of assurance, I can begin to imagine beauty, wholeness, and joy. From that place of assurance, there are no more mountain lions lurking in trees of my imagination. I don’t have to wonder if I’m doing it right or if I’m going the way I am supposed to be going, because those are the wrong questions. Instead, I focus on who God made me to be today, in this situation, with this person, in this work, loving others more than myself, loving God with my heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Because being faithful to that calling is being faithful to everything else—to God be the glory, forever and ever, amen.
Angela Aadahl is an Associate Director for the Laity Lodge Leadership Initiative, working out of Austin Texas.
The constant noise of the digital age requires us to work that much harder to remain focused on our individual passions and the good work to which God has called us. God wants us to feel passionate about our work because what we do reflects the person we are called to serve—Jesus. Our series, Vocation Focus, will inspire you with stories, Bible reflections, and practical tips.