by Helen Lee
Remember that hit song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? I recently listened to an interview with Bobby McFerrin, who wrote and sang that catchy tune. McFerrin, who hails from a family of singers, initially thought he would be a pianist, even though his distinctive, resonant voice indicated that he was vocally gifted. It wasn’t until he was close to 30 years old that he recognized and embraced his calling as a vocal artist.
God has a calling for each and every one of us as well. Of course, the primary calling for all Christians is the same: we are called by God, to God, and for God (to paraphrase Os Guinness in his eloquent book, The Call). But how we live that calling out differs for each and every one of us. In the same way that a relationship with God is unique and personal, so too are our callings. Are you pursuing the discovery of what your calling is?
If you are unsure of what your calling might be, Guinness gives a suggestion on how to approach the search: “Somehow, we human beings are never happier than when we are expressing the deepest gifts that are truly us. And often we get a revealing glimpse of these gifts early in life.” What did you love to do when you were young? What gifts and talents were evident in your childhood, and have you continued developing those gifts over the years? Perhaps as you think back on your life, you’ll discover talents that were affirmed long ago but that have been laying dormant, buried by the demands and expectations from your subsequent life circumstances or relationships.
When I was five years old, I wrote a story about a family of rabbits who survive a big storm and live to tell about it. My kindergarten teacher told me that the story was “special”, and so I gave it to her. I’ve never seen the story since, and I had nearly forgotten about the incident. But thinking back to this moment in my life, I realize that although I have always enjoyed writing, I never devoted myself in any serious way to fiction-writing. Whenever I think about trying it, I tend to focus on my fears and self-doubts: “What makes you think you can write fiction?”
In Scripture, we read the numerous accounts of people who experience God’s calling and whose initial reactions are to deny the calling in one way or another. Moses expresses his feelings of inadequacy. Sarah laughs at the implausibility of God’s plan for her and Abraham. Jonah runs as far away from Ninevah as he can. And yet we see that as God’s servants display openness for his plans, he leads them towards the calling that he intends, despite their initial disbelief or inaccurate understandings.
We need not worry about outcomes or adequacy. As we keep ourselves open to his calling, we discover that through his strength, we can achieve much more for his kingdom than we ever would have imagined, more than we could ever have done on our own abilities. Who would have believed that inarticulate Moses could lead the Israelites out of Egypt, or that ancient Sarah could have a baby, or that rebellious Jonah’s words could help turn around a wicked nation?
Sometimes our calling is clear and we merely have to embrace it, as Bobby McFerrin did. Sometimes, the calling seems outlandish, and we have to have faith to accept it. Perhaps the more improbable the potential outcome, the more evident it is that God is the one who has called us in the first place. Ultimately, our job as Christ-followers is straightforward: answer God’s call. Don’t worry about the outcomes. And be happy for the unique gifts and abilities we have been given to further his kingdom. That is something worth singing about.