When Heidi and I were doing the Courage Classic, we met a father and son who were Compassion advocates. They'd urge us on as we were trying to get up Vail Pass, and we chatted by the Porta-Potties and Gatorade stations.
At one point, one of them asked us about working at Compassion, "Is this God's calling on your life?"
Heidi responded right away, "Definitely."
I stared at him blankly and grunted. Then I made a lame joke about being called to stay at home and not work. It wasn't funny.
I'm very bad at this kind of question because it has developed out of a Christian sub-culture that is a bit foreign to me. To some degree, I think we've created a culture of a specific "calling on our lives" that is situational and circumstantial that just doesn't reconcile with the vast majority of the uses of the word "called" in the Bible.
The phrase "a calling on your life" isn't used in Scripture. The majority of times the word "called" (as in "you are called") is used, it is referring to our election and salvation in Christ - God called us to him, as in Romans 8:29-30:
"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."
There are only three (maybe four) places I can find where it uses "called" to mean assigned to a specific place/vocation in life. Paul and/or Barnabus were "called" to be apostles (people who are sent away to preach the gospel), in Romans 1:1, Acts 13:2, and 16:10 ("God had called us to preach the gospel to them.").
So the only two people we know from Scripture had a vocational calling were the first two apostles who spread the message of Christ. I'm not comfortable extending these three verses to mean that all of us have a specific vocational calling on our lives. The calling was given at a very particular time (the birth of the church) to two very particular people (the first apostles).
There's one other verse that seems to imply a situational calling, but it isn't explicit, 1 Corinthians 7:17: "Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him." This passage is talking about whether new converts should become circumsized and whether or not they should marry. Pauls says to stay in the situation to which you were called. This verse alone seems a bit vague on which to base a major Christian pasttime (finding your "calling in life").
What does not seem vague are all of the other biblical references to our "calling." Much like references to God's will, they aren't referring to circumstances (should I move to Kansas or should I move to Missouri), they are character focused and God focused.
I don't argue that no one has a specific vocational, situational, or circumstantial calling on their lives. Far be it from me.
What I do argue is that we have begun to use the phrase "God's calling on my life" very loosely given the Scriptural support there is for it. Based on the Scriptures about God's call, the question "Is this God's calling on your life?" even seems a bit unfair.
I don't know that I am "called" to a specific workplace or city or vocation. I know that I'm commanded to do good. I know that I'm commanded to work as unto the Lord. And therefore working at Compassion fits under this larger umbrella of calling on my life. Perhaps I'm splitting hairs. Perhaps this is why I don't get invited to a lot of parties.
What do you think? Tell me your thoughts. I know many people disagree with me, so I won't be offended.
Why does this matter? Am I just being an uptight Pharisee? I think it matters because when we become primarily focused on this circumstantial understanding of God's calling, we can spend our time obsessing over life choices. Instead of focusing on the very clear calls on our lives (listed below), we focus on what can become an obscure rabbit hunt.
Instead of focusing on what we think God's situational calling is on our lives, there are things we can know without a doubt are God's calling on our lives as we focus our eyes not on this life, but on Jesus:
God Has Called Us:
To Peace: 1 Corinthains 7:15 "God has called us to live in peace."
To Freedom: Galatians 5:13 "You, my brothers, were called to be free."
To Hope, Riches and Power: Ephesians 1:18-19 "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."
To Eternal Life: 1 Timothy 6:12 "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses."
To Belong to Christ: Romans 1:6 "And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ."
To Be a Saint: Romans 1:7 "To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints."
To Be Holy: 1 Corinthians 1:2 "to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy." 2 Timothy 1:9 "God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life."
Into Fellowship: 1 Corinthains 1:9 "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."
To Suffering: 1 Peter 2:20-21 "But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."
To Repay Evil With Blessing: 1 Peter 3:9 "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."
Into His Wonderful Light: 1 Peter 2:9 "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."