calling {noun}: a strong urge towards a particular way of life or career; a vocation.

What is your calling in life?

Have you ever been asked that question? Perhaps you have a definite answer to it: or maybe it sounds pretty terrifying. What does it mean? What if I missed the day that callings were being handed out? Do I have to have one?

Now more than ever, we are told in our 20s and 30s that the world is our oyster, that we should look for meaning in our lives, that we can change things. I love that. And rather be overwhelmed by this, I want to spend a few minutes with you unpacking what ‘calling’ is and what it might look like for you: because I really do believe that if we can begin to grasp it for ourselves, we just might change the world.

Frederick Buechener defines calling as the place where “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”. In other words, your calling or vocation is the intersection of what makes your heart beat faster and what the world needs most.

What is it you are doing when you realise you’re grinning to yourself? What are you energised by? It may not seem obvious, but it will be linked to your skills. What is in your hands?

What kind of stories do you seem to gravitate towards? What makes you angry? What breaks your heart?

Your calling will be the meeting of what you love and what the world is thirsting for.

It won’t always look exactly the same. There will be seasons of practicing your deepest gladness, of honing the things that are in your hands, or exploring what exactly it is that you enjoy. There will be other times when you will stare the world’s deepest need right in the eyeballs and shudder at the deep darkness of it all. There will be days when what you do feels far away from that sweet spot you’re looking for.

That’s ok. Nature’s seasons remind us that life ebbs and flows. It is transition, change, movement. But in whichever season you may be, ask yourself this:

What is the thread that runs through what you do with your time?

For me, it’s a desire to uphold and celebrate human worth. So, whether I’m campaigning for an end to human trafficking, writing or speaking words to encourage, or telling stories in my current job at Tearfund, that desire is what underpins my choices.

What about you? What is the strongest, boldest, most persistent thread in your tapestry?

Here are three things to cheer you on in the pursuit of this thread of gladness and need:

  1. Never stop learning. Keep coming back to what is in your hands – and adding to that. Get really good at that – or those – things. And keep looking into what breaks your heart. Find out more. Become an expert. Remind yourself of why the need first caught your attention.
  2. Find your tribe. You will always be responsible for your own calling. You will need to protect it, and run with it during times it may be misunderstood. However, there will be fellow travellers who share gladness or desire to meet a need, and these will become your ‘Clapham Sect’ – those who surrounded and worked with Wilberforce on abolishing the slave trade in the 19th century.
  3. Step forward with courage. It isn’t easy to pursue calling, and in meeting the needs of others you will face opposition. Have courage. It’s worth it. Karl Martin says it well: “The doorway to your destiny lies in the back end of a room called ‘What’s In Your Hand’. That room is only accessed through courage.”

So with courage, run. Pursue what makes your heart beat faster. And punch holes in the darkness as you do. Change the world? I think we just might.


If you want to explore your calling and God’s vision for your life as well as 7 other core principles of Biblical leadership, come and join us at History Makers UK at Regent’s College from 2 – 7 July 2017. Find out more here:

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