At George Fox University near Portland, Oregon, I am the director of career and academic planning. This university has Quaker (Friends) roots and has a 125 year history of believing God calls us to a specific vocation. There are many discussions on “Calling” and we even have classes on the topic. I love the concept that we are educating students in the field they feel called to, but not all students know at such a young age and are sometimes puzzled or feel pressure “to know.”
One student asked a chemistry professor, “Did God call you to teach Chemistry?” He replied, “I didn’t receive any message from God, but when this door opened and I tried teaching, it felt natural and good. I believe I am making a difference, so I decided to stay.” He added, “But if you ever hear a voice from God – make sure you answer the call. That’s serious stuff!”
Merriam-Webster dictionary states: “The definition of calling is 1) a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence and 2) the vocation or profession in which one customarily engages.”
This definition causes some confusion because many people believe a calling is only related to a spiritual ministry or a “voice from heaven” whether audible or internal. It’s often interpreted as a religious term, when the full definition indicates it’s all professions. In the discussion of vocation, it’s merely affirming and discovering what strengths, gifts and talents you were given to serve on this earth. When you are working in your natural abilities and passions, there is a joy in your vocation.
As this image shows, it’s the center of doing something you’re good at, feeling appreciated, and making people’s lives better. (I like to add, or making animals lives better or the environment better)!
Finding your calling may be an internal “drive” or evidence of talent even at an early age. For example, my granddaughter knew she wanted to work with exotic animals since she was little. At her 8-year birthday party, she raised money to save the cheetahs instead of receiving presents. She recently was accepted into veterinary school at Oregon State University at age 20.
However, for most of us, it is experimenting with different jobs, trusting that each is preparing you for a purpose and helping you evaluate your likes and dislikes, successes and failures, until you discover the work you were meant to do. I’m always searching for a balance between the “internal message” and the confirmation of life’s experiences to direct me in my calling. Some call that path of discovery “grit.” Grit was defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” by psychologist Angela Duckworth and colleagues, who extensively studied grit as a personality trait. They observed that individuals high in grit were able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity.
Whether you hear a call or walk in grit, I think you will like this article about Calling titled “7 Lessons About finding the work you were meant to do” by author Kate Torgovnick May.