This was the question a headhunter posed to Richard Stearns – “Are you willing to be open to God’s will for your life?”
At the time, Stearns was president of Lenox, had a wife and five healthy children and a beautiful home in Philadelphia, and was an active member of his church. He was happily ensconced in his comfortable life when a headhunter for World Vision called and asked him The Question.
I appreciate Stearns’ honest response. “What a terrible question to ask someone,” he writes candidly in The Hole in Our Gospel. “What a rude question to ask someone! And what an uncomfortable question for someone to answer.”
And I love the list of selfish “buts” he gives in response to the question – “Yes, of course I’m open to God’s will for my life…but…”
Stearns lists all the reasons why the World Vision job is not for him: he loves his current job at Lenox; he’d just made it to the top of the corporate ladder; he earns a lot of money, money he’s worked hard for; his children have friends and lives of their own in school there…why should he move them across the country?; he and his wife live in the house of their dreams; he drives a brand-new company car, a Jaguar!
There are deeper “buts” too: “I don’t want to do this; I can’t do this…not poverty, slums, hunger, disease, dying children, grieving parents – don’t ask me to go there, God.”
I hear a lot of talk in Christian circles about “the calling.” Christians often refer to their “calling” – what God’s called them to do, what their God-driven mission is in life. And I don’t doubt for a moment that most of these people are genuine – that they believe they’ve been called by God for a particular purpose in life.
The problem is, I don’t hear the calling myself.
I mean really, God knows me pretty well; he knows I’m a concrete, cut-and-dried, tell-it-to-me-straight kind of girl. Why can’t I get an email with “The Calling” in the subject line? Why can’t I get a phone call like Richard Stearns did? “Sure,” I think. “Easy for Richard. He got a call from World Vision, one of the largest Christian-based, non-profit organizations in the world. Now that’s a calling.”
Not only do I not know if I’m open to God’s will for my life…I’m not even sure what God’s will for my life actually is. Frankly it’s a little disappointing. After all, everyone else seems pretty confident about what their calling is. How hard can it be?
Stearns poses a good question, but he doesn’t tell us how we might find an answer. Most of us aren’t going to get a call from World Vision’s headhunter, begging us to take a CEO job. So how do we, the regular people, figure out our calling? How do we discern what God’s will might be for us, those of us living ordinary, everyday lives?
It feels like I have a list coming on, doesn’t it? Insert bullet points here.
I wish I could say I have the answer, that here are steps one, two and three for discerning God’s will for your life. But I don’t. All I have so far are a few muddy basics:
Passion: I love to write. I can’t wait to write every day, in every spare moment. Perhaps this passion is God’s way of telling me I can use this skill for greater good. Perhaps looking at where our passion lies is a starting point? What’s your passion? Can it be used in some way to benefit someone else?
Circumstances: It’s probably reasonable to assume that most of us aren’t able to hop on a plane and dedicate the next six months of our lives to the people of Sudan or Tanzania. Our personal circumstances may hint at what God wants us to do. He can’t possibly want us all in Africa. He probably needs some of us in our local soup kitchens, too. Or at the domestic abuse shelter. Or delivering meals to the elderly.
The Gut: Ever have an experience that stuck with you in your gut? Recently I drove past the same man, holding the same “Will work for food” sign, standing in front of the same grocery story for three weeks straight. And every time after I drove past, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling in my gut, the feeling that I should do something (for the record, I did nothing). While my brain rationalizes, my gut speaks loud and clear. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s God’s voice, that pit-in-the-stomach feeling that won’t let me go. It may not be a whole-life calling, but could it be an in-the-moment calling? And really…aren’t they one and same?
So there you have it…my rambling post on discerning God’s will for your life. As you can tell, I don’t have my thoughts quite together.
But here’s where you can help. Leave a comment or send me an email and tell me one tip, so to speak, for discerning God’s will for your life. Something concrete, if possible, because you know me…I’m nothing if not concrete.
What’s worked for you? Have you figured it out? Am I the only one who didn’t receive The Calling email from God?
Next week’s topic: Who is My Neighbor?