She found me in the church kitchen. "I know you are busy, but…" her fingers plucked at her sweater. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" I leaned on the doorjamb and leaned into the conversation. Life was hard, she said. She wondered if I could pray for her to get this new job, and she wanted to ask me about how I got to the ministry position I held at the church.
She looked down at the floor and kept picking at her sweater, and the words tumbled out. Being a mom was harder than she thought. Staying home and "just" cheering her husband on in ministry wasn't so great. And as the words came, they became stronger and more honest. She was anxious for her future and jealous of his. "I feel like I'm wasting my life," she said. "I just want to find my calling."
This isn't only one conversation I've had, but an echo I've heard from so many. And I've not only heard these words; I've thought them myself. Just how does a woman find her calling, particularly in ministry? Let's evaluate some of the myths and realities of our call:
"Just" Never Is
If I could just get this next job…If I just had enough money for a babysitter…If I could just finish my degree…If my church would just hire me. How many of us have suffered under the tyranny of the "just?" Just is a word we should remove from our vocabulary. There is no easy or one-step path to our call. The word "calling" is defined as "a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career." Calling goes far beyond anything we find on the other side of "just." And because of that, the path to our calling is never "just" around the next corner. Rather, calling is about a becoming a lifelong explorer. Calling is about refusing to believe that we are defined by one job, one relationship, or one season of life. And because of that, finding the shape of our call takes time, work, trial, and error.
"Find" Is too Active
I recently lost my engagement ring. I've been in an active search to find it ever since. I look, sometimes haphazardly and sometimes frantically, searching in the same spots over and over. This is a recipe for insanity, since I know my engagement ring can't move itself.
We talk about "finding" our calling, and I think we give ourselves too much credit. In fact, I think it is often that our calling finds us! In the intricate dance of our will and God's sovereignty, we find that the path to our calling isn't about just finding anything. The path to our calling is about taking one obedient step at a time, listening for our call rather than actively finding it. When I began seminary, I had the distinct sense that I was to enjoy one class at a time—focusing not on the end product but on each step I took. As my "calling" switched from ministry to counseling, from full-time mom to part-time counselor and then into full-time ministry, I've found that lesson to be foundational. John Steinbeck once wrote, "A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it" (Travels with Charley).