a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary
Many of us have a calling on our lives. We know where we want to be, where God wants us to be, and a vision of how to get to the place where the two intersect. We know what our time, energy, and resources should be going toward, and we take steps to protect these things so we may – eventually – experience the fulfillment of the calling.
There are times though that we can incidentally take on a calling that is not ours to take on. Sometimes, we may do it intentionally, maybe to avoid dealing with our own calling. Most of the time though, we may do it innocently, without even knowing it, just by directing our time and energies to something that we aren’t meant to.
Taking on a calling that isn’t ours to take on can take many forms. Essentially, it is us putting our time, attention, and resources toward a task, project, or person that we are not called to put those things toward. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t lend a hand to help out our friends or family members, but there is a line between lending a hand and devoting oneself to. It’s one thing to help someone pump gas, another thing to start working at that gas station as a full-time employee.
This very thing happened to me in the Bay Area a few years ago. My wife and I moved to the Bay to become part of a church plant. At the time, we were already moving and working in faith here in Arizona toward a calling God had planted on my spirit: I was to write full-time. It had already been almost seven years by this point since I had been wrongfully fired from my job and we had decided to step out in faith and pursue this vision and calling on our life. Seven long years I had been following this calling when God prompted us to move.
So when we were called to pick up everything – and I do mean everything – and move to San Francisco with less than $1000 in our pocket, we did. God came through in miraculous ways and opened up doors I didn’t even know could be opened. Through an incredible adventure of faith, we settled in the Bay and became rooted within the church plant.
But during the course of the church plant, something happened that I didn’t catch on until it was almost too late. I become so engrossed in trying to fit into this church plant – to participate in the activities and meetings and studies, to mesh with the others in the group who were all in different seasons in their lives, and to try to step way out of my comfort zones and even my natural gifts to reach the unsaved of San Francisco – that I took on the pastor’s calling and vision as my own, nearly abandoning mine in the process. I became so concerned with the direction the church was heading in that I completely left my writing ambitions in the dust.
It was subtle at first. And it wasn’t until we finally cut ties with the church plant and I went on a men’s retreat with another church to re-calibrate my focus that I realized what had happened. It was alone time with God that set me back on the path of my calling – writing, and eventually publishing. But it was that alone time, that time away from the very thing that was pulling me from my own calling, that allowed me to gain the perspective I needed to break free and return to my own vision.
We have to be careful when God calls us to something specific. It is all too easy for us to become distracted by a number of different things – including someone else’s calling and vision. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help or participate in someone else’s calling or vision, or inviting people in to help you with yours. We just have to keep things prioritized and make sure we are staying responsible to the calling given to us.
The pastor, the church, none of it was purposely taking my vision from me. I allowed it to be taken. I did not safeguard my own calling because I never thought I would need to. The calling to write with me has been so strong in my life, that I felt it could never be overridden by anything else. I was wrong.
Have you ever noticed that in your own life? You know you’re supposed to be doing something specific with your life, only to find yourself getting sidetracked by something else? It doesn’t even have to be another calling – it can be life itself. Drama. Chaos. Crisis.
It can be that one friend or family member who requires constant care and attention – either physically, emotionally, spiritually, or all of the above.
It can be that one situation with no resolution that keeps popping up over and over and over again, causing you to dive into the same time-worn arguments that leave you spent.
It can even be our own addictions – to vices, to social media, to gossiping.
I’ll admit, lately, some of these things have been distracting me from my calling, and I’ve had to remind myself of what happened in San Francisco.
Anything that we engage in that is a distraction to our calling becomes our counterfeit calling. In turn, we follow false vision. That means the end result of our efforts will not be the result that was originally meant for us. The effects that counterfeit calling has on our life will not be God’s intended effects. We end up chasing a red herring, while our real calling vanishes into the mist.
Don’t lose sight of your vision. Do not look to the right or the left.
So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. – Deuteronomy 5:32
Keep your eyes focused on the goal, on what God has called you to. If you must, break away from those things you feel are distracting you and get some alone time with God and refresh your passion for the calling you’ve been given.
In what ways have you been distracted from your calling before? Do you feel you are pursuing your calling now, or is there a breakaway that needs to occur to get you back on track? I would love to hear from you about your own experiences in this area.