But I'm on my way home from this conference about "vocation" and "call" so perhaps I should blog a bit more about that too.
One of the interesting things I'm starting to learn from hearing people's stories of not only "To what they feel called" but also those moments from their life story that led to those particular callings, is that they often result from some sort of brokenness or lack of support at some point in their lives. I'll use a public story as an example.
Jay Bakker is the son of Jim and Tammy Fae Bakker of televangelist fame. His story has been most recently made public through a documentary series entitled "One Punk Under God" (which I highly recommend adding to your Neflix queue). His dissatisfaction with the religious life he grew up in (and the subsequent and televised breakdown of his family) led him through a dark period in which he rejected his faith--and felt excluded from God. Now he's a pastor, but one quite unlike his famous father. You can hear his sense of call to this unique ministry in a bit of his bio from his church's website:
After witnessing firsthand the excommunicative treatment his family received from the church, Jay wanted nothing to do with God. And so began a new life filled with substances easily abused and nonstop partying created to mask the pain and suffering caused by this surreal rejection. Eventually, Jay was able to conquer his demons and made a personal decision to find out who God really was. What he discovered floored him – God wasn’t some judgmental, condemning deity sitting on a throne waving an angry fist in the direction of sinners – rather, he was an understanding God offering his gift of love and grace with no strings attached. For the first time Jay wasn’t being driven to Christ out of fear; he was being drawn to Christ through love.It's clear Jay's sense of call comes from his own hard experience, and what he wished had been available for him in the midst of it. Now he's devoted his life to helping others weather the same experiences he has, and find the support and community he longed for.
As a result of this discovery, Jay started a church for those who feel rejected by traditional approaches to Christianity; this church is called Revolution. The idea behind Revolution is to show all people the unconditional love and grace of Jesus without any reservations due to their lifestyles or background, past or future. In the desire to bypass geographical boundaries, all Services are recorded and posted on the Revolution Church website to create an “online church for people who have given up on church.”
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Jay's (and so many other's) sense of calling comes from their own deep pain, and a desire to help create the sort of world in which the sorts of things they have experienced don't become the life-ending problems they are for so many. I think of the sorts of "hero" calls one hears about: the kid that escaped the slums who comes back to start a youth center there, the young woman who experienced rape who volunteers to help girls foster self esteem, the man who grew up without a father in the home who now mentors teenage boys in his church, etc.
But I'm hearing this again and again in the more ordinary stories I'm hearing too. I have tended to think of call along the lines of "What gifts do I have that could be useful?" but this realization is helping me to see an added dimension of call which is "What wrong have you experienced that you are passionate to help right?" In many ways, I think the two are connected--and transforming a brokeness or hardship into a way to help other's through this might indeed be one of the most amazing gifts we have. It drives our passions and focuses our energy in ways that simple talents never will.
So, the question this raises is "What is your place of hardship that drives you to be passionate about what you are passionate about?" Might this be a place of call for you?