Footballer? Singer? Racing car driver? Fire fighter? Think back for a moment to what it was that you wanted to be when you were growing up. Some of those childish ideas may have been wildly unlikely, but for some of us, still searching for what reason we’re made for, perhaps a ghost of those ambitions still haunts us today.
The question of what we are really, really meant to do with our lives, particularly our work life, can lurk just over our shoulder, even when we’re happily employed. So, in career advice sessions or online assessments we lay out all our strengths again and again, hoping for a new perspective that might give us a startling moment of clarity about the type of job that would cause us to excel beyond our imagining.
But a calling – a God-given purpose – often emerges from a much more surprising place.
Just as we’re most attuned to that universal call from Jesus – the call simply to follow him – when we are most aware of our weakness and need, so too does the specific, ‘so-what-now-do-I-do-with-my-life?’ call, often come, not through our strengths, but through our hurts and struggles.
So when we consider what we’re to do with our lives, rather than starting with our achievements, let’s look in the least obvious places. Where are we weak? What has caused us to stumble? Where have we experienced pain, firsthand or on behalf of others? Where can our tender vulnerability reveal God’s gracious power?
Last week, during the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, Lejla Damon’s story came to light. Born of rape in Sarajevo, during the Bosnia-Serbia conflict, Lejla’s mother was so traumatised by her ordeal that she wanted to strangle her newborn baby. Lejla was adopted by a Christian couple in the UK and now, aged 21, rather than turning her back on this painful past, she has discovered something of her calling as a member of War Child’s youth engagement panel, helping other young people whose lives began through sexual violence. Beauty rising from the ashes.
In less extreme examples, there may be ways in which our former poor choices or prejudices; competitive upbringing or natural shyness; bad experience of school or addictions, or whatever it is, may be utterly redeemed, flipped upside down and become our calling, as we offer our whole selves in God’s service.
Out of wounds comes the healing of humanity. Out of the grave comes hope for the world. Out of what pains us personally, comes a clue to our calling.
Chasing the fantasy of an idealised career, in which we pursue personal recognition and the polishing of our strengths, will never truly satisfy. But following Christ’s call to restore brokenness that we’ve witnessed, will bring quiet contentment to our lives, healing to the world and all the glory to God.
Photo credit: Laura Thorne / December 2011