As a part of my doctorate, I have done a lot of research and writing on the concept of a calling.
If you haven’t read these articles yet, here are two posts that I wrote on what calling is:
- The 2 Things You Need to Find Your Calling: Part I (acting on an internal purpose)
- The 2 Things You Need to Find Your Calling: Part II (being other-oriented)
However, I recently listened to a podcast about calling and realized that there is a component that I didn’t emphasize enough in my explanations on calling. In the podcast, Damein Schitter from New City Orlando said:
“I think we find it hard to be content because we believe that calling is more about the future than it is about the present.”
This is a big distinction that I see trip up a lot of people – myself included. Oftentimes, I think of all of the things that I feel called into and feel overwhelmed that I can’t seem to start working on them right now. An example would be my call to write a book. I have several ideas for multiple books that I could write, but right now I am called to learning through school and work experiences.
Don’t misunderstand me, though. I still believe that visions of the future are important. Yet, we will never be content to only hope and think about a future call until we recognize that the vision starts to be realized in the present.
From a spiritual perspective, we also see this convergence of the present and future. In the podcast, Damein explains that in the Bible, the word “calling” is most often about the situation in which God has called us now, not what God is calling us to. All throughout, we see God giving visions of his covenant and our future hope. Yet, those visions start happening in the now. “Your kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven.” We can already experience – albeit a glimpse – of heaven on earth now. But only if we commit to seeing heaven in the present and not as a distant future.
Yet wherever you experience your call coming from, what does this concept mean for your calling?
How can you start seeing your calling in the present?
In a word: engagement.
When I coach my students and clients, they often talk about their calling in terms of wanting to do something that is “authentic” to them. What’s interesting is that the definitions of calling throughout academic literature all have a focus on being other-oriented, and feeling a call to positively impact others. Similarly, authenticity is “characterized by the genuine intent to affirm and foster each other’s being by bringing oneself into the relationship” (from the book I And Thou). Or stated in another way: “Authentic action is to be found when individuals freely act in such a way that they try to foster the growth and development of each other’s being” (from the book Paradoxes of Learning).
And so we see that in both finding a calling and discovering one’s authenticity there is a need for engagement with others. And engagement requires being present. We can’t expect to understand who we are and what we’re meant to be doing by waiting for all of the pieces to fall into place before we put ourselves out there – whether engaging in relationships or trying out new career callings. Instead, pieces begin to fall into place as we take messy, complicated, beautiful steps forward into vulnerability.
Though engagement is vulnerable and scary, research shows that authenticity makes “individuals more whole, more integrated, more fully human, more aware, more content with their personal and professional lives, their actions more clearly linked to purpose, ‘empowered,’ better able to engage in community with others, and so forth.”
In sum, authenticity is not a solely inward process. You won’t find your authentic calling by sitting around and trying to envision what you want to do in the future. You must go beyond and engage in the present, bringing your whole self.
An authentic person is aware of his or her present contexts, recognizing that authenticity is not fixed but continually “sought in relation to issues that matter crucially.” Our ever-changing present context does not make our authenticity or our callings relativistic. Rather, we are on a journey to go as the Narnians discover in The Last Battle “further up and further in.” Every step of the journey reveals a bigger glimpse of our authentic calling.