Purpose, Calling, and Obedience
Warning: This is long, rambly, and very Jesus-y. #sorrynotsorry You can’t say you haven’t been warned.
A friend sent me this article the other day. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.
*insert Musak here*
Okay, you’re back.
I feel I should offer a disclaimer first. I have occasionally read Sarah Bessey’s blog, but it’s safe to say that I don’t really know much about her. It does appear, however, that she blogs about Christian things on occasion. She seems to even write books about such things. I mayhap read one someday. I don’t know.
The point is that I don’t really know anything about Ms. Bessey’s faith, politics, or personal life, so before you lambaste me for posting something from her, keep in mind that I don’t have to agree with everything she writes in order to agree with *THIS* particular post.
Because here’s the thing…
That post is so frickin’ spot on.
And as if I needed another way to cement my title as The Biggest Crybaby in Gresham, Oregon, I wept in the discount grocery store over that post. I had to wipe my eyes and blow my nose before picking out bananas.
First there is this:
Sometimes I can think that pursuing my calling is selfish. I don’t know where I picked that up – perhaps it’s cultural conditioning, leftover bad theology, or something. On some sub-conscious level, I can feel guilty for taking time to create, for taking time to do the things I love to do, simply because I love to do them.
But the truth is that I start to falter without it. I become frustrated, tired, empty, if I’m not creating something, even if it’s just as simple as a few hundred words a day. I know this but I forget it sometimes. I skip creating in some grand self-sacrificial way but then everyone else ends up missing the best and most whole version of myself altogether. It isn’t until I sit down and do my work again that I return to the rest of my life – homemaking, raising children, community, church, school, marriage, all of it – as my most true self.
I’m better everything when I’m doing the work I was meant to do, however humble or unimportant that work is to anyone else.
Please read that last line again.
Plus, there is this:
I’m not sure, but I think this tendency might be more common for women. I think we struggle more with the perceived “selfishness” of living out our calling or vocation with abandon. So we feel guilty when there is no need for guilt, sometimes even adopting a martyr complex of all the things we are denying ourselves in service to our families.
This is so true. When a man says his calling is to be something–cop, engineer, pastor, military man, whatever–no one bats an eye. If a woman who has children–especially a woman in Evangelical circles–dares to suggest that her calling is anything BUT being a mother, we put child services on speed dial.
I love my children. I think motherhood is a high purpose, massive obligation, and humbling experience, and I believe it is a biblical duty to raise my children according to Scripture. I also think that there are a lot of mamas who do not share my worldview who would agree with most of that–maybe just substituting the biblical part with some kind of duty to raise them to be moral creatures or whatever. Point being, most mamas get that this is a pretty intense, pretty important job.
But I think it’s okay to say that maybe it’s not your calling.
Because being a mother is NOT my calling. I want it to be sometimes. It seems like maybe it would make the whole thing a little bit more tolerable. But the goal of motherhood is to launch young adults who go on to lead productive, fulfilling lives and who come back at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter with the grandkids so that you can spoil the little beggars. The goal is not to actively parent forever. The goal is to launch them so they can parent themselves.
The problem as I see it, at least for me, is that if I think of motherhood as my calling, and then I operate as if the entire world revolves around that One Thing, what will I do when the kids do leave?
This, by the way, is why Bryce and I covet our date nights so much. We love being together. We had eight beautiful, quiet years together before we had kids. We can’t wait till we get to have more of those years once the kids are gone, so our goal as parents is to make them leave.
In reality, God placed those gifts and callings inside of you for a purpose and it’s profane to stifle them in some misguided attempt at honouring God. If you want to honour God, come alive.
It’s entirely right and appropriate to bring your whole self to your whole life. I think God created us for an abundant life, filled with joy and meaningful work and service. And I think it’s important for our children to see us working, to us loving our work (even the kind we do just for the fun of it, because it makes us feel alive).
That martyr thing? Guilty as charged.
This post got me thinking about the intersection of calling, purpose, and obedience in my life. Disclaimer: This is my experience. I can’t speak for others.
(Here’s the part where I get Jesus-y. Sorry. Look away for a moment if it bothers you.)
I gave up writing out of obedience to God. I still believe firmly that I had to do that. I think it was right at the time. He needed to know–I needed to know–that it wasn’t mine, that I would give it up if He asked it of me. I needed to establish that writing was not my God, but that HE IS, WAS, AND IS TO COME. And I did that. I gave it up in every way that I could. I had no intention of ever going back to it. I intended to throw myself into the mom thing and be the best gosh-darn mom ever.
But because God is kind, gracious, and loving, He did not turn me into a Pinterest mom. Instead, He gave my writing back.
It still makes me cry to remember it. There was a day–I was on my face, literally, again, crying and begging for answers and assurance, hands open in the most literal sense…. And then they were filled. Those empty hands received.
They received writing.
God said, “Okay. Now you’re ready. You can have it back.”
It was as close to being tangible as the intangible can be. It was a moment of peace and a moment of redemption (because really, is the process of redemption a one-time thing?) and a moment of sheer terror. “God,” I whispered. “I’m not ready for this. I can’t do this. I am not a writer–I am a mom. I have to be a mom, first, and an AHG volunteer, and a wife, and all those Proverbs 31 things that I’m supposed to be.”
But He said, “You are supposed to love me with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.”
Soli Deo Gloria.
How easily we become ensnared by good idols! How easy it is to put volunteerism, service, motherhood above God.
Look. Here it is.
I gave up my writing out of obedience, and I took on the AHG Troop Coordinator position out of obedience, and I don’t regret either choice. If I regretted one or the other, I would question whether it was true obedience or not. But I don’t have an ounce of regret. I think I had to give up writing for a time because I had to figure out what was important. And yes, my family is very important, no question. I became a mom because I saw the value in being a mom.
And being a Troop Coordinator was and is important. I am very mindful of how important it is that older women follow the Titus 2 model and instruct and mentor younger women, and that’s a huge mandate and responsibility. Not only is it important to all the girls in my troop, but it has also been the most valuable faith experience I’ve ever had. I have grown more in my faith as a Troop Coordinator than I have even as a parent. This job has taught me utter dependence on the Father, and it’s reminded me that He does what He says He will do.
Obedience brought me to my purposes–to be a wife, mother, and Troop Coordinator.
But now, obedience has brought me to my calling.
I think maybe there’s a difference. I think maybe purpose is a temporary thing–a thing you do for a while because it’s required, like go grocery shopping or nurse a baby or be a Troop Coordinator.
But a calling is a thing you have hard-wired into you, a thing that, when you do it, makes you into the truest, most authentic you you can be.
And for me, that’s writing.
For a few more years, my purpose is to be a mom–to launch these precious young humans who call me “Mom” into adulthood. But I’m on the downhill side of that now. I mean, it’s not like you ever stop being a parent, and I want to always be in their lives, but I’m looking ahead and thinking that my youngest will be 18 in eight short years, and then what? When they can all parent themselves, one of my current purposes will be largely finished, and there will be a new purpose or two (mentoring them, being a grandma, whatever) that will be different.
But my calling… That’s not going anywhere.
My calling is to shepherd stories out of my head and onto the page.
My calling is to do that to the utmost of my ability, with particular attention to the excellence of the art.
My calling is to participate in the culture and share my stories with the world.
My calling is to do what I do to the glory of God.