An excerpt from Dr. Linda Seger’s book, Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success: Gaining the Goal Without Losing Your Soul
We find our careers in many ways. Some of you might have experienced a calling to your particular work. Perhaps there has been a nudging, prodding, guiding, or whisper that pulls you into your life’s work. Some speak of “being led” or listening for the gleanings of what we are asked to do.
The idea of a calling is not always neat and clear, and each calling demands some discernment. Some might ask: Does God call the equipped or equip the called? Are we always called to what we’re good at, or are we sometimes called to do something that will be challenging and stretch our talents?
How do we know when ego is talking and when we’re truly listening to the Guiding Spirit? How do we sort through social chaos and social expectations to find God’s clarity? To what extent does God want us to be prosperous and live abundant lives? Do we sometimes get confused because we want our calling to lead us to being respected, perhaps even to wealth, and then realize that is not what our lives are about?
In the deepest part of our soul, we want our lives to express our talents. We want to find meaning through our work. We want to know that what we do counts, and that our lives matter to others. We want to make a difference.
As spiritual people, we also want to feel that we are doing what is the right thing to do – that somehow we are adding to God’s work in the world and doing God’s will.
Discerning these difficult boundaries is no always easy.
Some callings, of course, do seem clear, and sometimes the passing of time is the best indicator that the calling was clearly from God.
The call comes in many ways, and spiritual people have many ways of defining it. For some, it’s a feeling of doing what seems right, what suits them, what they feel compelled to do.
The call uses our talents.
The call is accepted and recognized through prayer.
Actor Denzel Washington recognizes that he has been called to do his work: “I understand that what I’ve been blessed to do is part of God’s plan.” He begins every film with a prayer he learned from his mother: “Heavenly Father, we come before thee, knee bent and body bowed, in the humblest way that we know how.” Washington says, “I open the film with a prayer and end it with praise.” When asked about his film The Great Debaters, he said, “Every major decision I made, I made through prayer, about who I was picking to be in it, what it was I was trying to say, praying that the film was saying the right thing and that it would reach the right people…It’s how I start every day, and it’s how I end every day.” 6 Washington describes himself as having “an ongoing conversation with God.” 7
The call asks us to be good stewards.
The call has far-reaching implications.
I have had experiences that felt like a clear calling to my work. When I was nineteen, I loved drama but was not very good at it. Others were better actors, received better grades in classes, were simply more dramatic personalities. Yet, I was happiest when acting, reading plays, even directing theater. One day, as I stood in my dorm room, I asked God how I could enter this field, since I wasn’t a natural in drama. I heard a quiet voice inside my head say, “Your job is to keep the dream of drama alive!” I knew immediately what that voice meant, since I felt, on some not-quite-articulated level, that drama is one of the greatest of the humanities and that it can inspire us and reveal the human condition, and has the potential to encourage us and to lift up our dreams and hopes. I realized that was what I was to do – in one form or another.
A few years later, after getting an M.A. in Drama and teaching college, I felt there was still much to explore, but didn’t know where to go for further graduate work. There were few universities that offered a Ph.D. in drama in the early 1970s, and none of them interested me. I heard that a seminary in Berkeley had studies in drama and theology, but wasn’t sure about getting such an unmarketable degree. In my confusion about how to find some answers, I went forward at an altar call at the small Baptist college where I was teaching (Grand Canyon College in Phoenix, Arizona). I had no idea, at that moment, about the significance of this rather humiliating act, but one of my friends encouraged me not to discount the experience. Two days later, as I turned my car onto the freeway on my way to work, I suddenly knew that I was going to seminary.
Footnote 6: Beliefnet, http://www.beliefnet.con/story/227/story_22778_1.html
Footnote 7: http://adherents.com/people/pw/Denzel_Washington.html