Lenten Focus #3 — What Is Your Calling?
In the Lutheran faith, when someone is considering going into the ministry, they’re told to look at their Inner Calling and their Outer Calling. The Inner Calling is easy to describe: it is that feeling inside of you that is pulling you in a certain direction. It could be your interests or hobbies, it could be something you feel passionate about, or it could be something that’s always been on your mind, but you haven’t quite decided what to do about it. It’s an inner burning, and inner desire, that you can’t exactly explain.
The Outer Calling is a little more challenging; a person’s Outer Calling is the social environment that they are exposed to. Friends, family, random people on the street, all of it affects the Outer Calling. This sort of calling is a little harder to pick up, because there are so many sources, but generally, if there is one thing people consistently say about you, it is more than likely your Outer Calling.
The belief is that if you Inner Calling and your Outer Calling are in sync, then that is what you are being called to be. I’ve seen this sort of experience as I reflect on my own life. Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m being called into some sort of ministry, and I’m now realizing that I’ve been hearing the Outer Call for most of my life.
I remember in the summer of 2006, when I was on tour with the Minnesota All-State Lutheran Choir, during a concert in Spicer, MN. We were at the point in the concert where the members of the choir scattered themselves into the audience and sang a hymn with them. I found a couple of ladies in the third row on the right side. I picked them because it was close to where I was standing when we were to surround the audience for the final song. I sat next to these ladies, and we had a couple of moments to chat it up. The first thing one of the ladies said to me was, “We were just talking about you, and we’ve decided what you should do with your life!”
It was disconcerting, because I had never talked to these ladies before–never even met these ladies before!–and they had already figured out what I was supposed to do with my life. I tried to think back to what I had done during the course of the concert and tried to figure out what they thought I should do. Really, the only things I had done during the concert was sing, and some narration during the musical that occurs halfway between the “formal” part of the concert. What possible career paths could they pick out of that? Professional musician? Professional choir member? I had no idea.
I decided to humor them. “I’ve been trying to figure that out,” I said. “What should I do?”
“You should be a pastor,” they said. And then we sang the hymn, sang our final song, and left. I never saw those ladies again, even though I was in the choir for two more years, and we were in Spicer for those two years. But that statement sticks with me, even to this day.
After first hearing about it, I laughed it off and said I’d look into it. Being a pastor wasn’t something that I had been considering. It was during that time that I was having some trouble with this whole Christianity thing, and if I was having problems with something I believed in, why should I become a leader of it?
But after continuing to reflect on it, I’ve realized that it was one of the most direct instances of the Outer Calling I’ve had yet. Those two ladies saw something that I had been ignoring. I gave a couple of sermons and children’s sermons before being in MASLC, and once I started college, I’ve been having this desire to give a talk, to have my message heard by the world. My Inner Calling appears to be leading me to a life of ministry, and the Outer Calling only seems to be stronger as I work on my Inner Calling.
The question this week is: what is your calling? What is your inner burning desire that you can’t rid yourself from no matter how hard you try? What are the people around you saying about you, or edging you toward? And how can you take these callings and turn it into something beautiful in your life?
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)