“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ~ Frederick Buechner
Last Sunday, I listened to a sermon on callings. I closed my eyes as the Reverend spoke about her own calling to be a Unitarian Universalist Reverend. The topic of callings has stayed with me ever since.
What exactly is a calling, anyway?
According to Mirriam-Webster, it’s “a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.”
A calling often suggests a vocation, but it doesn’t need to. Finding and following a calling could mean a huge career change, but it might also be as simple as returning to a pastime you’ve loved but forgotten or paying attention to synchronicities that pop up.
Sometimes, we know what our calling is, but we’re not sure how to follow it. We tell ourselves stories like, “It’s not practical,” “I don’t have time,” or, “What would people think?” I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. While at times I’ve pursued other paths, writing is one of the great loves and constants of my life. But for many years, I couldn’t envision how to actually make a living by writing.
Whether like me, you knew what your calling was but the odds seemed stacked against you, or whether you’re still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, here are five ways to tune into your calling.
Ask yourself what you loved to do as a child. At age eight, I spent rainy afternoons huddled in my closet with a pillow, a small lamp, and a paperback. Other times, I hunched over my grandmother’s antique desk, penning poems. I loved cozy, small spaces where I could be alone with words. I still love those things now, more than 30 years later. I suspect I always will.
What do you love to do now? Quick, grab a pen and make a list of 50 things you love. Maybe you love the ocean, hiking, or going to the movies. Make a plan to do one or two of them within the next week. Even if they’re not directly related to your calling, doing things that bring you “deep gladness,” brings you closer to yourself, which in turns makes it easier to hear your own intuition.
Whittle away distractions. We live in a busy world, and it’s easy to fill our lives with distractions and commitments that don’t serve us. Maybe we watch too much TV or keep saying yes to volunteer commitments that don’t enrich us. Maybe, like me, your electronic devices take up too much mental space and time. Maybe your house is overflowing with things you don’t love, which takes up room that could be devoted to following your calling. Clearing things that don’t serve you or that are huge distractions—whether clutter or commitments—frees up space so you can follow that which serves you. Saying no to what you don’t want or need means saying yes to your calling.
Commit to baby steps. When I decided to really pursue writing, I started by taking an adult ed writing class. Signing up for the class meant that once a week, I would be writing, and I would be in a room full of other people writing. Sign up for a class, attend a lecture or contact someone you know whose following the same calling you are. Ask them how they got there. Take a leap, even if it’s a tiny one. Then take another, and another. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Keep following. While following a calling could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, I believe that for many of us, it’s a continuous process of shedding what we don’t need so we can get closer to the person we were born to be. I became a writer after years of yearning to be one. But I have other callings, too. Lately I’ve felt the calling to spend more time outside, as I love hiking but haven’t done much of it in recent years. Listen to the deep, still voices within you, whether they’re telling you to write a musical or be kinder to the earth. Our deepest regrets almost always revolve around chances not taken.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Michael Hull/Unsplash