An excerpt from Linda Seger’s book, Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success
How do we absolutely know we are following the calling of God? We probably can’t. “Some who have heard ‘the call’ may have gotten the wrong number or at least a bad cell-phone connection.” (This quotation is not attributed.)
How can we be sure we’ve received the call clearly? In his book Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order, Lloyd Lee Wilson discusses several different tests we can do to study the call and help ourselves discern if we’re on the right path.
Test the call by waiting first.
Wilson recommends we first quietly wait and not feel rushed: “The first thing to do…is nothing at all. One simply sits with the incipient leading, tasting it in the silence of one’s personal worship and devotional time, waiting to see whether it feels true and if so, how it will develop. This is a time to be, rather than to do: to be listening to the Divine voice, to be quiet in one’s worldly activities, to be ready to hear and obey.” (Footnote 8 here.) God is not in a rush. God is not frenetic. Meanwhile, the adversary to our call wants to get us in a tizzy, running in all sorts of different directions, wants us to be confused, and hopes we misinterpret the call. Waiting centers us. It gets us in tune with the Spirit and with the still waters rather than the rushing rapids.
The call will reinforce the gospel.
A call will not contradict the essential gospel message; “True leadings guide us in ways that are in harmony with the Spirit that gave forth the Scriptures and with the clear teaching of Christ,” says Wilson. (9) And he says a call will not contradict the paths we’ve taken before that have seemed in tune with the Spirit. “A true leading should feel like a continuation of other movements in our spiritual life that have proven to have been Spirit-led and Spirit-fed.” (10)
The call will express spiritual gifts.
A call will manifest and express the gifts of the Spirit – such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. (11)
A call would use our spiritual gifts. St. Paul lists a number of gifts we might have, such as the gift of wisdom, of healing, of prophecy, of discernment, (13) of teaching, and of service. (14 )
A call brings us into harmony with God, and brings us a sense of peace, release, relief, and clarity. Quakers sometimes use the words “to be at ease” with a decision. Others might describe it as being comfortable, or as a kind of knowing that feels solid.”
Our call can be discerned by others.
To test the call, some might turn for advice to spiritual people they trust, who they believe have a gift of discernment.
Many callings seem to prove they are right by the effectiveness of the work.
And sometimes we don’t know for sure. All we can do is to be obedient to what we discern our calling to be; and to move, step by step, along the path; and to keep listening to the Spirit, which may often be only a still small voice. We follow the light we have, hoping for a clear “yes” to continue, or a clear “no” to stop and turn in another direction. We try to commit to manifesting the Spirit in the world, knowing our steps and our work may still be flawed.”
Footnote 9: Wilson, p.185. (Wilson, Lloyd Lee, Essays on the Quaker Vision for Gospel Order, Philadelphia: Quaker Press, 1996.)
Footnote 10: Wilson, P. 186.
Footnote: 11: Galatians 5:22-24.
Footnote 13: 1 Corinthians 12.
Footnote 14: Romans 12.