When you grow up in the church, it’s surprisingly easy to pick up some weird ideas about God and faith.
Most Christians would agree that the scriptures are the absolute source of truth for us when it comes to learning about God, and yet we always somehow pick up a few odd ideas along the journey that are not exactly biblical.
One of these ideas that I picked up when I was a teenager was that God has a very specific job that he wants each person to do.
I was fully expecting that one day out of the blue, God would tell each person exactly what His plan was for their life: “Steve, I want you to be a maths teacher”, “Sarah, I want you to be a police officer”, “Alan, I want you to be a doctor”.
And the label that my teenage-self put on this process was calling – God has a calling and a purpose for each one of us, and it involves a specific job that God will give us exact instructions for.
The flaws in my thinking
Having matured a little bit over the past few years, I can now see that there are some fundamental flaws with this thinking.
Firstly, our identity is not found in our job and the things we do, but in who we are in God and the way we live. We are beloved children of God and that’s all that matters. What we ‘achieve’ for God counts for very little if we don’t love him and love his people first.
Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a lawyer or a check-out operator at a supermarket, this is not God’s primary plan for your life – God just wants you to love him and be in relationship with him.
In my late teens, my thinking also really shifted away from the idea that God gives everyone a specific thing to do in the first place. While I know that some people do receive really clear direction from God on what he wants them to do with their lives in terms of their vocation, for the majority of people, this is simply not the case.
God cares much more about how we live our day-to-day lives. Do we worship him by the way we interact with people and the priorities we choose during the day? Do we love his people by being humble and putting their needs first? Do we live holy lives by the things we say and the things we watch on tv?
This is what God cares about, not that you chose the right university to study at. God also very rarely gives us the whole picture of our lives, but instead he just shows us each step, bit by bit.
Psalm chapter 109, verse 105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” A lamp on a dark path shows just the next immediate step that you need to take, but not the whole road.
God often won’t tell us when we’re 15 what our lives will look like when we’re 40. We just have to trust him that he’ll guide the way, and this is where faith comes in. We need to step out and take that next step even though we might not necessarily know where it will lead in the long-run.
What is our calling?
So then, if God doesn’t necessarily call us to a specific job, what is our calling? We talk about it enough in the church, so surely it must be important.
God calls us to love him, and to love others.
God calls us to be like Jesus, to live and love like he did on earth.
God calls us to live holy lives, to be set apart and in the world but not of it.
For an overthinker like me, I can sometimes feel like this is a bit of a cop-out. Seriously, it can’t be that simple! But I think it really is.
Sure, God does give some people a specific means to live out this calling, but at its core, God’s calling for all of his people remains the same – love.
Rebecca Howan is from Wellington, New Zealand, where she works as an Executive Assistant in the humanitarian sector. She worships and serves at The Salvation Army, and is passionate about music, travelling the world and building community.
You can read Rebecca’s previous columns at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rebecca-howan.html