Saturday, May 14, 2011

Career Versus Calling

There comes a time in most of our lives when we seriously begin to question our purpose here on earth.  For me, those questions began very early on (adolescence through college) and persisted into adulthood.  When answers could not be found, I simply looked around and tried to piece together the unspoken.  So-and-so appears to be very fulfilled on this track, maybe my calling will be found by just continuing along and one days things will click.  Or, this guy appears confident and collected, maybe if I keep acquiring knowledge and skills in a certain area, my purpose will become more clear.  Most of the time I simply thought to myself that nearly everyone else seems to be plugging along just fine without this deep inner conflict that keeps me awake at night.  What was wrong?

Thinking back to my college years, I remember the unanswered questions.  I would ask professors and mentors how they figured out which direction to take, but never felt a sense of peace about my own direction.  Being the first in my family to attend college, support and encouragement were readily given, but a family history in a certain area or calling was not present.  I would have to figure this out on my own.  When I finally decided on a path, a major course of study in Finance and a contract guaranteeing a commission into the United States military upon graduation, I thought things would fall into place.  A life of service appealed to me; plus I enjoy physical activity and being outdoors. That's it, I figured it out.  Or, maybe not.  The still voice in my head provided some clues.  'This is not the way.'  'Yes, you understand this material, but you will not find what you are looking for down this road.'  After a brief active duty stint and then a handful of years progressing as a financial analyst for the Department of Defense, the inner turmoil was no less prevalent.  I received formal training, completed my MBA, and moved around the country in search of promotions and more experience; yet, fulfillment and peace were not to be found.  'Why won't God just close this door and open the right one', I began asking myself silently and my husband aloud.  

A good friend of mine, one of those friends who always happens to call and say the exact thing you need to hear at the exact moment you need to hear it, would always say reassuring things such as:  'Your career and calling do not have to be the same thing.  Just because you work in a particular field,  it does not necessarily mean that is where God is going to use you.'  I ate these words up and believe those statements to be true; however, they did not necessarily fill the void.  I wanted my career and calling to align.  This realization was the first the step into figuring out how to best use my life for God's purpose.  As the soul-searching continued, I began to realize that it was not up to God to close any door, it was up to me.  By changing my thought patterns and diving deep into my motivations, I had realized that fear (fear of the unknown, fear or failure) kept me hanging on many more years than I should have.  Although I loved many things about the military, I was not passionate about the type of work I was doing.  

When we started building our family, I made the decision to use that time to begin a new chapter both personally and professionally.  Yes, the decision to walk away from the familiar was difficult, but over the past few years God has shown me that I needed time, probably more time than I would have allowed myself, to figure out how to best serve Him.  By spending the past few years at home with our growing family, I have learned a lot about my strengths and limitations.  I have worked harder than I have ever worked in my life and yet am still driven.  I have learned that at the end of myself is where Christ begins and at the end of myself is where Christ wants me to live.  I try to see the world through my children's eyes, with awe and mystery and limitless possibility.  I ask God to use every day of my life to build the foundation for the next and proceeding chapters.  I ask that He not let me waste another day and that He please, please use me to fulfill my purpose for Him on this earth.  That humble, sincere asking and pleading was what was previously missing in my life.  This was not something I could figure out on my own, but only through prayer, faith, sweat, and perseverance would His plan be unveiled little by little.   

Recently on the radio, I heard a guest speaker saying something along the lines of:  'Where your greatest gifts and greatest passions collide, there you will find your purpose.'  This simple yet profound statement is how I envision the next chapter of my life.  As the plan begins to unfold, I am nervous and giddy, but prayerful and cautious.  I do not know exactly what it will look like, but have been given a glimpse and the daily reminder that I need to live at the end of myself so that I can hold the hand of Jesus as He walks me step by step.  God gave me (and you) special gifts and if we let Him, He will show us how to use them.  

1 Peter 4:10 says, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."  What are your gifts?  Passions?  How can each one of us use our passions and gifts to glorify God by serving others?  Wouldn't it be the dream of a lifetime to figure it out?!  
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