Getting a sense of “calling”

Another one has bitten the dust. Another one has decided on a new course of action, ostensibly to lead to a different career field.  Another one has claimed “calling” or a “sense of call” or the “results of prayer” in making the decisions.

And I simply have trouble believing it when I hear it.

Basically, I think what is happening is this:

  1. A believing student begins to feel uncomfortable in a major academic field
  2. The student searches around and finds something s/he feels more comfortable with, at a given moment.
  3. The student figures the easiest way to tell believing professors in field X of the impending change is to say “I’ve prayed about it, and I sense the Lord calling me into Y now.”

But when Y doesn’t work out, either, what does that do to our concept of God?  Is He fickle?  Does He push us one way and then pull us another way, just to see what we’ll do?   I suppose there are a few biblical examples of that kind of thing, but those examples don’t mean that moving this way is to be thought of as an M.O. for God throughout the ages.

Aside:  it strikes me today, in completing my reading of the Genesis narrative, that there can be an element of arrogance involved in suggesting that my present situation, for example, is a result of providence, as Joseph’s situation was in Egypt.  God was working an eternal purpose for an entire nation-to-be then, and history was summed up in Jesus the Anointed One.  Why should I brazenly suggest that I am in NY under a similar arrangement with the Almighty?  I know, I know, God loves me and pays attention to me and “sings over me” (thanks, Zephaniah and Dennis Jernigan).  I believe He loves me, but I don’t believe I have the historical, redemptive significance of Isaac or Jacob or Joseph or Ruth or David.  Maybe of Zaccheus?  🙂

Back to our thoughts on the present now.  One college junior has already been through two major curriculum-changes — once during the summer after his freshman year, and again a few months later — all supposedly based on a sense of “calling.”  I was embarrassed for him when he told me all about “God’s call” from the second area into the third, but he didn’t seem sheepish at all.  On the contrary,  he was confident.  I tried to listen empathically and tried to say something supportive, but down deep, I found his rationale, well, not rational and very subjective.

I really don’t intend to be questioning the potential work of God in a human life today, but I don’t see as much evidence of His actually, observably working in this way as some claim to see.

So many students seem to hear a “call” into the arena of worship leading.  When one has some music talent and a pretty good work ethic, one’s peers can easily push one into a state in which more and more sense of self-worth comes from this “worship leading” activity.  Add to this picture the portrait of a cool mentor in the “worship band” and sound field — someone with a good deal of charisma — and you have an even more magnetic pull.  But is this attraction the work of God, or of human thought and emotion?

Now, I would hasten to add that I have for many many years found exceptional value in worship leading.  There is something deep within my soul that exclaims, in response to such senses of call. “Yes, yes!  Do this great thing for the kingdom.  Serve all your brothers and sisters.  Usher them into a consciousness of the presence of God.  And, as you do this, I will live vicariously through you, for my heart has the same longing.  Thank you, thank you for your affirmations of what I have meant to this point in your life … and now I know you are going on to something better.”

But the louder thoughts arise and supplant:  “I know you think you’re moving into something more important, and true worship is more important, but you will find that all this flurry of churchy activity and flashy sound stuff ultimately fizzles.  Your prayers and your idea of God’s call are sincerely perceived, I am sure, but such sincerity does not necessarily translate into long- or even short-term Kingdom reality.”


9 thoughts on “Getting a sense of “calling”

  1. Rachel 06/15/2012 / 8:08 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! The issue of “God’s [supposed] calling” is not addressed often enough. Certainly, God works in our lives, but I’m also fairly certain that he gets “blamed” for an awful lot of (sometimes poor) decisions that are not necessarily in response to “His call” as much as some might like to believe. The new Christian lingo is to say that everything we do is something that “God is calling me to do,” but are we all so certain that we are doing what God wants at every turn?


    • Brian Casey 06/17/2012 / 7:45 pm

      I, for one, have very little certainty that what I’m doing this moment or that has anything more to do with God’s will than the “other” choice. I walked 4 miles today. Was that God’s will any more than riding a bike or not going at all? Was my feeling that it was a good day to walk some echo of God’s will? You won’t find me saying “no” unequivocally, but it seems that you and I both question such assumptions, anyway!

      Interesting about “blaming God.” I don’t think I’m frequently found actually blaming God for my bad choices. On the other hand, I probably have more of that latent in my heart than I’d like to admit. If my faith were stronger, that might make me *feel less * like blaming [God or anyone else] for what I perceive as a negative situation.

      One weaker in faith than you might not even be certain that, as you say, “God works in our lives” — in the way popular Christian culture has it, anyway. I believe absolutely that He worked in the ancient times, and I don’t want to be associated with “deism,” but I do observe and suspect that He works largely differently — much more indirectly — today.


  2. Rachel 06/19/2012 / 12:55 pm

    I think I meant “blamed” in a different context than what you took it to be. I wasn’t exactly thinking the “God made me make this bad choice,” but more of people saying God told them to do something that I don’t necessarily see came from God. “God told me to date this person.” “God is telling me to break up with you.” “God told me to transfer.” “God told me to transfer back to the first school.” etc, etc. I’d say often this is the product of giving God the “credit” (or “blame”) for their own indecisiveness.

    I dislike that whole scene so much that I tend to, in the moment, avoid saying “God is showing me to…”, but I can look back and see things that in every way should have gone one way – and seemed liked they would – but mysteriously didn’t. So many times it was for the best in the end, and I do feel like God had a hand in some of those situations.

    However, obviously God doesn’t always make things work out “the best in the end,” at least not in the Earthly end, so I don’t have any answer for that!

    I would definitely “second” the fact that He seems to work more indirectly today.


    • Brian Casey 06/20/2012 / 10:23 am

      OK, I think I get more what you mean by “blaming God” now. If I understand correctly, the negative side comes in your analysis of the outcome (i.e., if something doesn’t work out or is in question, we get to say, “well, God told me to do it, so it must be He will.” Credit or blame — guess it doesn’t matter all that much. An old friend, Sheila, has commented here, too, noting someone else’s view: “claiming with certainty that God was doing this or doing that … bordered on blasphemy.” I tend to see it that way, too, sometimes — although probably only when the outcome of this or that situation is in opposition to my personal preferences and scruples!

      Take, for example, a (presumably sincere) profession by a poor, homosexually active soul that “God made me this way.” The particular suggestion is repels me because the claim of God’s will — presumptuous at best, in most cases — is here being used to support activities I can’t support.

      I like the idea of looking back and seeing things in terms of God’s activity. Thanks for that reminder. I can do that, too!


  3. Sheila 06/19/2012 / 11:04 pm

    Oh, how this resonates with me! It seems the language of being called has entered the collective Christian psyche with very little if any teaching on discernment. I once read a letter written by a Jewish writer in which he expressed his view that claiming with certainty that God was doing this or doing that, in present times, bordered on blasphemy. I think he made a good point, even though I would not go quite so far.


    • Brian Casey 06/20/2012 / 10:27 am

      Sheila, thanks so much for offering these thoughts. Great to re-connect.

      “Collective Christian psyche” — HA (and by “HA” I mean “man, she’s so right-on that such a thing exists that I’m getting nauseated).

      I think I’m just bold enough to agree with the Jewish writer you cite: “claiming with certainty that God was doing this or doing that … bordered on blasphemy” . . . and there’s no Homeland Security fence or border patrol! 🙂


  4. Sheila 06/20/2012 / 10:41 am

    The post above is an example of why I think we have to be open to the fact that God may well be calling us to certain things, and confirming those calls, today. But it almost always happens in the context of the larger body. Individuals seeking and claiming guidance on their own are so prone to projection, distortion, self-centered desires, etc.


    • Brian Casey 06/22/2012 / 1:11 pm

      I agree with the stance of openness and do thank you for the reminder!

      The mention of the “context of the larger body” here spurs me to point out that while God clearly, historically, has worked in groups (the Twelve at Pentecost, for example), some groups appear to work *without Him.* In recent, passing glances at selected documents of “church fathers,” I was reminded of how far afield humans and institutions drifted, and so quickly. By the dawn of the second century, some pretty serious human concoctions were afoot. Also, it is good for us all to remember that correctives in the NC letters were written not for us primarily, but because believers in those times and places needed corrections to their courses! Groups can be places for God to work, and they can also be places for weird stuff to grow.


    • Sheila 06/22/2012 / 9:01 pm

      This is true. Weird stuff has a way of growing all over the place in this world, does it not?


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