A couple weeks ago, I shared (not for the first time and likely not for last either) this, one of my favorite quotes from Priscilla Shirer, on my personal Instagram page. Along with this quote, I wrote the following caption:
“This is something that has and is taking a long time for me to learn. I don’t have to be all or do it all. I only have to do what God is calling me to do, and that calling, on a personal level, is between God and me, and on a family level, between God and us (“us” being Patrick and me). Doing things out of compulsion or guilt or to keep others happy, outside of what God is calling us to, only leads to resentment and misery.”
I never thought I was a people pleaser. I’ve always seen myself as strong, opinionated, and independent. But in recent years, as I’ve written about in this space more than a few times, I’ve discovered that I hate letting people down. I hate telling them “no” even when I absolutely should not be saying “yes”, and it is of the utmost importance to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health that I learn to say “no”. I’ve gone into that ad nauseam in the past.
Here’s the thing I want to unpack just a bit more . . . the word “assignment” . . . or to put it another way, calling . . .
I’ve spent my entire life in the church. I was raised in a family that spent many years “in the ministry” and married into a family that is also “in the ministry”. Something I’ve both had happen to me, as well as witnessed happening to others, is people, sometimes well intentioned, sometimes not so much, feeling as if they need to be the voice of God for those around them. Only, it’s more a way to get people to do what you want them to do and less about God’s calling. To put it very simply, it’s thinly veiled manipulation. It usually goes something like this, “God is telling me that you should _______”. Because if you tack “God said” onto whatever it is you think someone else should be doing, they’re obligated. Sorry, that doesn’t work with me . . . at least not anymore.
Now I will say, I do firmly believe there are definitely times when God speaks directly to us through others. I do not automatically discount the words of others. There are times when I need that nudge or encouragement from someone I trust, that I know has my best interest in mind, but I’ve found, almost without exception, when a person is speaking to me about God’s calling and direction in my life (or our lives . . . because that’s often how it works when you’re married) it is a confirmation of what God has already been working on in my heart. I actually experienced this very recently.
For quite a while, I’ve felt God tugging us to begin (the slow process) of moving in a certain direction with our youngest (I know . . . vague . . . sorry . . . that’s all I’m willing to give you today). So much about the timing of this pretty significant (both for her and us) change hasn’t been super clear to me, but I do know that I feel “called”, to use the Christianese term, to begin planning and moving in this particular direction. Last Sunday, I was talking to one of my most precious friends, and I asked her if she would be praying about this specific thing. Keep in mind, this is not something we’ve ever discussed before, but when I mentioned it to her, she looked at me and said something to the effect of, “I’ve been praying about that for a long time! I felt like God put it on my heart over a year ago.” That, right there, was massive confirmation. I already knew what God had laid on my heart, so it wasn’t out of left field, and yet, I was once again in awe of how God does this. How he confirms to me what I already know. Here’s what, in my opinion, I think my friend got so right. She didn’t march into church and tell me what God was calling me to do. She didn’t try to give me all the answers as to timing or how this would all play out. She never even broached the subject with me (if God had told her to, I’m sure she would’ve obeyed). She just prayed, and will continue to pray, because she felt God directing her to. When the time was right, He used her to confirm to me that I’m not totally crazy. That’s kind of a joke . . . I know I’m not crazy, but y’all, I have wondered if making this choice would be the definition of insanity. We’ll see how it all plays out. Even now, as I research and plan, I’m not sure about all the details or timing. This may be soon. It may be a couple years from now. What I do know is I trust that God will continue to guide our steps and make clear our path in this decision.
Circling back to calling. Here is what I want to say. As I stated above, your calling is between you and God, and if you’re married, it often encompasses you and your spouse and God because I believe that married couples are many times, but not always and exclusively, called together. Regardless, your callings should be, at the very least, complementary to one another’s. In Psalm 37 verse 4 it says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” I’ve found that the more I delight myself in God . . . the more I seek His face . . . the more time I spend in prayer and His word . . . the more I find I deeply desire what He is calling me to.
Likewise, I also find clarity on what He is not calling me to. I think sometimes that is just as important. I mentioned above, I have people-pleasing tendencies. That means, I have, more than once done things I should not have been doing merely because I didn’t want to make someone angry or disappointed. These are often very good, even Godly, things, but they are not supposed to be my thing.
Once again, I’ve written a novel to get to my point, and if you’ve stayed with me through all of this, bless you. But here’s the bottom line . . . your calling is your calling. It’s between you and God and like I said before, your spouse, if you’re married. Don’t discount the words and advice of those around you (there are many places in scripture that talk about the importance of wise counsel), but you don’t have to automatically assume that they are right either. Pray about it. Seek God’s direction personally. Read His word and trust that He’ll show you which path to follow. If it’s what He wants for your life . . . if you’re truly open to seeking His will and His desires for you . . . I promise you will know it. It will, maybe slowly, maybe quickly, become something you also desire. But if it’s not what He has for you, you’ll know that too, and it’s okay to step back and say, “I don’t believe this is the direction God is leading me.” Sometimes we become so afraid of missing God’s will for our lives that we jump into every opportunity presented to us without stopping to consider if it’s right. If you are seeking God and walking with Him, you’re not going to miss what He has for you.
For so much of my life, I was convinced that whatever God was going to call me to do, it was going to be the polar opposite of my desires . . . even if I was seeking and serving Him. Newsflash: God doesn’t set out to make us miserable. He wants us to find joy in our calling. That doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging. It doesn’t mean there won’t be times when we wonder what on earth we are doing. What it does mean is we will know, in the deepest part of our souls and spirits, we are where He wants us. That in spite of all the challenges and hardships that may come, we’ll also find deep contentment, joy, and peace, and we’ll have the desire to keep moving forward in that calling even when there are times when quitting crosses our minds. I think Jesus gave us the perfect example of this in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what He was called to do. He knew what was required of Him, and He knew it would be unbelievably, unimaginably painful so much so that He asked His Father to “take this cup”, and yet, at the same time, He made it clear He desired to fulfill His calling knowing that He would ultimately have the victory (Luke 22:41-44).
Miserable Christians are a horrible witness for Christ. Hard does not equal misery. And easy, the path of least resistance, does not always equal peace. Either way you look at it . . . whether you are choosing to avoid and ignore your calling (often to please others), or you are doing something you are not called to (usually out of obligation), you are setting yourself up for bitterness, resentment, and misery. Choose to seek God and trust that what He has or does not have for you is best.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33