Mother Teresa describes her calling as “the call within the call”: her first calling came at 17 when she felt God leading her to be a missionary nun. So she moved to India and taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta.
She heard her second call on a train ride. She had been sent to Darjeeling for rest and recuperation after contracting tuberculosis, and along the way she says she knew what she was supposed to do for the rest of her life: “I was to leave the convent and work with the poor, living among them. It was an order. I knew where I belonged but I did not know how to get there.”
Have you ever experienced this kind of clear call from God? My husband has a definite call on his life: he knows his vocation is pastoral ministry. He has heard God speak, plain and clear. But me? Nothing.
I am confident God has led me to specific people and places, and looking back I can see his hand guiding my history; yet, I’ve never had a lightning-bolt-Mother-Teresa moment of clear calling.
I’ve often thought that what someone does between the hours of nine and five holds the key to unlock the mystery of fulfillment and purpose in life. And can you really blame me? I (like everyone else), starting in elementary school, was relentlessly asked this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now that I am grown up, I thought I wouldn’t have to answer it anymore, but the truth is, I still do; the question has just taken a different form. Now it’s, “What’s your dream job?” Or, “If you could do anything in the whole world, what would you do?” As if my job defines every part of my purpose here on earth.
I’ve allowed our work-obsessed culture to confuse “calling” with “job.”
But lately, I’ve been rethinking this worldview. Though I’ve enjoyed my work and do find purpose in it, I have also found equal measures of fulfillment elsewhere: in my relationship with God, my husband and family, my church, my friendships, and my service to my community. Even the most successful career in the world wouldn’t mean anything without love.
So maybe I do have a clear call. But maybe for me it doesn’t look so much like a lightning bolt, but more like a gentle breeze. I’ve felt God’s quiet promptings to be generous, to protect those on the margins, to be an embodiment of his love in this world. He has drawn me to his people, to the Church, and to the hurting. He has called me to love and honor and serve my husband for the rest of my life. He has called me to draw near to him, to know him, to love whathHe loves and hate what he hates.
When I think about the call of God in this way, I’m reminded of the words of the prophet Micah:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
God requires us to be just and merciful, and to lead a humble life of service to him. That is the call. For all of us.
Jesus repeats this idea in Matthew 22:34-37:
“One of [the Pharisees], an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
Love God. Love others. That’s all there is to it. Everything else hangs on these two commands.
Perhaps one day, I’ll be struck with a specific and clear purpose from God. But for now, I’m content with allowing his gentle breeze to nudge me towards himself and his people.