In which I know your calling (and mine)

The favourite question of a Christian may be this one: What is my calling?

We muddy the waters by also questing after: Where shall I live? Where shall I minister? Where shall I spend my life? Who shall I marry or should I marry? Shall I have children or not? Why did God put me here, on the earth? What is my work? Am I a missionary? Am I a pastor? Or am I just something else?

These words with enormous implications on our lives like “calling” and purpose mean that we grapple with those questions in our youth and then in our adulthood. We listen to sermons about it. We read books. We do personality tests and ministry giftedness tests. We develop a hero complex and then we crash into despair when that prophecy that a camp counsellor gave us when we were thirteen (you know – the proverbial “you’ll reach thousands for Christ!”) somehow fizzles and your life looks rather small and ordinary and unglamorous.

But we know everyone has a purpose, a reason for being. We know that God has a plan for us and it’s a good plan. Right?

And after Brian left full-time vocational ministry, we grappled mightily with those questions.

So imagine our surprise when one of Brian’s favourite professors at our beloved Regent College, Dr. John Stackhouse, baldly told him that those questions are absolutely ridiculous and should not be part of our life.

In fact, those are the questions of a child who has not yet grown up and recognised this: We already know our calling. Every Christian knows their calling. So stop asking, stop wondering and just start doing it.

“Say what?” quoth we, struggling with the idea of pastoral calling and artist work and location and vocation and all other desert markings, perishing in our hero-complex wilderness.

So I dismissed him as a crazy intellectual who did not understand the living and active God, leading and guiding us.

I was wrong. He was right.

We don’t want to settle into the work of God and so we look for something “more” than that, something to make us feel special and set apart. But we have been set apart already, by the very nature of our allegiance for the Kingdom, for God’s work. We wrestled with the individualistic nature of our calling because we didn’t realise that we already know our calling.

And it’s gorgeous and wide and meaningful and brave – right in the context and life that God has placed us.

And so here are just a few lines about our calling:

We are called to follow and love Jesus.
We are called to love mercy, to do justly and to walk humbly with our God.
We are called to the big nouns – like family and friendship and Church – and we are called to the big verbs – like forgiving, loving, serving, seeking, blessing. And we are often call to live out those enormous nouns and verbs in the smallest of places, making space for the Holy.
We are called to be the Image Bearers of God.
We are called to the poor and the fatherless, the widow and the hurting.
We are called to each other.
And we are called to love those whom the Father loves. Yes, all of us for all of us.

And there is much, much more.

(Related: In which I am part of the insurgency)

When I stopped despairing of where, God? what, God? why, God? how, God? and started to live out just a bit of the the truth of what I knew He wanted for all of us, somehow, weirdly, we’ve wound up right where he must have wanted us all along, as the people he has wanted us to be all along and we are somehow – again, weirdly – on that path towards where we’ve been meant to be headed all along. With joy. With wholeness.

When we are laid down the idea of a burning bush that is not consumed, of the hand writing on the wall, of the hero complex, we found a thousand places, a thousand people that even an overzealous camp counsellor would be happy to see, and we realised that this is holy work, this loving God and loving people.


I have some friends in Bolivia right now. 

I love them and they are good people. They give me no b.s. and when they say something, I believe them.

They are there to visit World Vision’s work in that community. They are writing the stories of the people and it’s quite breaking my heart and making me love and pray a bit harder and a bit more.

In light of your calling to love and serve the poor, whom the Father loves, would you read these?

A Different Kind of Mommy War – Rachel Held Evans
What It Really Means to Grow Your Family – Nish Weiseth
Social Justice Exhaustion – Matthew Turner
Father, Forgive Me For I Did Not Know – Elizabeth Esther

And then would you consider adding a child to your own family through sponsorship?

my heart is in Bolivia

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  • Sara

    AMEN.  i remember at first loving that quote from Buechner that says we find our calling where ‘our deepest gladness meets the world’s deepest need,’ but then becoming very disenchanted with it after realizing that most of the people on this earth don’t have the luxury of pursuing only ‘their deepest gladness.’  what happens when your deepest gladness doesn’t pay the bills?  whose deepest gladness is cleaning toilets?  in the end, i think those questions about calling are not only ridiculous, as your professor said, but also glaring indicators of privilege… questions that only the most advantaged among us can even afford to ask.  thanks for the post.   

    • Sarah Bessey

      Yeah, I didn’t even touch that with a ten-foot pole. They are absolutely glaring indicators of privilege (much like most of the “mommy-wars” stuff, too). You are right on.

  • Leigh Kramer

    Yes, yes, yes!  I confronted that same question several years ago, struggling with whether I’d misunderstood my calling.  I hadn’t. I’d just been confused by the church’s definition of calling and discovering God’s plan for one’s life (which it turns out, is not nearly as individualized and detailed as we’d like it to be.)

    • Sarah Bessey

      Yes, indeed. Our pastor once said that God isn’t so much concerned about the “what” of our life as the “how” of our life. (What we do versus how we do it, I think he meant). that always sticks with me.

  • Joy Bennett

    You’re such an encourager. I so appreciate this post of support.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Love you and the work you’re doing Joy. Praying often.

  • Beth Ricci


    And would you stop stealing all the post ideas out of my head, please? Geez. It’s as though we’re sorta like-minded or something 😉

    • Sarah Bessey

      I’ll do my best. 😉

  • Anne J.

    LOVED this!
    I just read and nod along but I have nothing eloquent to say except, AMEN and THANK YOU.

  • Alison

    Such truth here. Excellent post.

  • Rebecca

    Amen! Amen! Amen! I am an Episcopal Priest who would love to have babies someday. Your writing speaks to my heart. Thank you for inspiration, humor, aptitude, and generosity.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thank you so much, Rebecca – I appreciate that.

  • mommafo

    This is amazing. I’m afraid I use that word too much but wow, how right on. So true. thank you for sharing this.

  • Jenn

    Wow, and yes. I’ve struggled with this too, never feeling like where I am is enough, and now realizing that there are vast opportunities right where I am and the work is sacred and real. That all people matter and we affect so many in a course of a day. Good stuff.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Yes – work is sacred and honourable and part of the redemption song now. It’s quite a mindset change to stop viewing it as part “the curse” and start to see it as redeemed blessing for us all.

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks for this post.  

    I have had some of these thoughts for a while.

    Child sponsorship is a wonderful thing.  It is a great way of getting children involved.  They can write letters and draw pictures from an early age. 

    Compassion and Operation Mobilisation offer Child Sponsorship as well. 

    • Sarah Bessey

      Yes, we sponsor one child through World Vision but another thorugh Compassion.

  • Mizmelly

    needed this. thank you.

  • Kathleen

    I remember a post at one of my favourite conservative catholic blogs on discerning God’s will tat concluded with “God gave you free will, you can choose whatever life you like as long as it’s not sin!” That’s not a tone that usually appeals to me, but I think it’s basically right.

  • Nish Weiseth

    I love you, and I am so grateful for you & your support. You are dear to me, my friend. Thanks for loving the Bolivian kids with me.